Obama and Race

I’ve been reading a number of responses to Obama’s Big Speech; in particular, I thought Timothy Sandefur’s comments were excellent. I also liked Jeff Jacoby’s response in the Boston Globe.

I was as offended as a lot of people when Obama tossed his Grandmother under the bus, and I found his later “conciliatory” remarks about her being a “typical white person” equally troubling. I, like a lot of people, noticed that Obama’s refusal to denounce Wright–or leave the church–significantly undercut the strength and force of his repudiation of the Rev’s comments. And I was certainly not the only person to have noticed the essential difference between Wright and Obama’s poor Grandmama: that where Grandma’s racism is instinctive, unreflective, and surely tinged with at least some degree of remorse, Wright’s venom is the product of considered thought and careful deliberation, and more importantly, was delivered for the express purpose of moving his congregation to further hate, and is clearly remorseless.

Obama’s defense of his relationship with Wright came down to this: He’s a good but misguided man; I disagree with him on many things, but the strength of our shared beliefs is strong enough to counter our disagreements. Yes, he may have appalling views, but a lot of good people have appalling beliefs and we can not exclude them from the national conversation. Just as we don’t choose our family, we don’t choose our national polity. That, after all, is the point of a national “conversation on race.” If there is a racial divide and a racial wound that needs healing, then we should come together as a broad national polity. The problem is that Obama doesn’t ask for that.

Where he understands that any meaningful “conversation about race” has to involve the full participation of the black community and a full acknowledgment of that community’s legitimate grievances, he fails to see that a corresponding understanding of the white community’s grievances is equally necessary. To be sure, he pays lip-service to concerns about the fairness of racial preferences and issues of basic justice, but ultimately he ends up rejecting those concerns while ignoring legitimate problems. Now, I know how absurd–and offensive–it is to assume that there is anything like a unified “black” or “white” community, but these are the divisions that Obama referenced in his speech. Obama’s rhetoric plays into the inevitability of the racial divide and he certainly implied that the two communities were largely uniform and separable; in other words, this is his vision.

The failing in that vision, is that regardless of how civil or informative this supposed “conversation about race” could possibly be, he’s already drawn his conclusions–and they’re the same boilerplate progressive conclusions that the have been policy and law for the last forty years; more racial preferences, more set-asides, and more wealth transfer. Nowhere is there any semblance of change or any reason to hope. (They’re also exactly the same conclusions that Hillary Clinton draws, by the way).

He implored the black community to spend more time with children, to read more, and to remain optimistic. He said that the White community must address the legacy of discrimination “not just with words, but with deeds” by investing, providing and enforcing. Essentially, Obama asked the black community to become more responsible and he asked the white community to foot the bill. He also exempted the black community from any requirement to action.

What kind of responsible change is Obama asking of the black community if he continues to associate with and support the kind of considered hate that Rev. Wright trades in? Obama’s refusal to leave Wright’s church and his refusal to disown Wright was a telling symbolic gesture. He showed the black community that no matter how outrageous, provocative, or hateful any of its members become, they will be tolerated, embraced and sheltered.

Obama talked about the anger that roils in the black community. He advised us that, “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.” He’s right. The anger is real and it’s pervasive. Reverend Wright’s sermons are not philosophical outliers in the black community–they’re not the marginal rantings of an obscure minority: they’re mainstream. The anger that drives Wright’s vision of the world is of a piece with the anger that drives the celebration of the gangsta’ lifestyle, it’s the same anger that fuels a crippling anti-intellectualism, and it’s the same anger that drives the deep and virulent misogyny and racism in rap and hip-hop music. The anger that Obama referred to has–unfortunately–become the cultural and political anchor of the black community.

Obama did not, as other prominent black figures have done (Bill Cosby) roundly denounce this ridiculous celebration of anger in black culture, rather he appeared–especially in the context of his association with Wright–to accommodate and validate it. He told us that to turn his back on the source of that anger would be to turn his back on himself. Obama was telling us, in no uncertain terms, that unfocused and hotly passionate anger has become an essential part of the modern black political identity. Far from renouncing the debilitating anger of the black community, Obama embraced that anger and made it a part of himself. This is not a call to responsibility and progress, but is in fact is a refusal to accept responsibility.

In any honest conversation on the state of race relations in America, two things must be openly and honestly discussed: 1) The enduring legacy of slavery and systematic discrimination that polluted centuries of American history, and 2) That black American culture has quickly become the single greatest obstacle to black advancement.

Barack Obama had an opportunity to defy racial categories–the promise of his campaign was largely that; he was a candidate that happened to have dark skin. But no more. He had an opportunity to renounce the corrupt and debilitating prejudices that Rev. Wright embodied, but he did not. He had an opportunity to embrace a real conversation on the merits and dangers of wealth transfers and dependence, but he did not. He had an opportunity to ask everyone to take a principled stand for responsibility and change, but he did not. He had a unique opportunity to transcend race himself, to not phrase the conflict as one between “us” (blacks) and “them” (whites), but he did not.

Instead, he asked Americans to ignore naked racism and hate. Instead, he begged us all to become victims. Instead, he asked that we further define ourselves as pieces of the black community or the white community.

Race is now the issue for Obama, and he ultimately has only himself to blame for that.

Update: Christopher Hitchens has an excellent article up at Slate. His conclusion:

To have accepted Obama’s smooth apologetics is to have lowered one’s own pre-existing standards for what might constitute a post-racial or a post-racist future. It is to have put that quite sober and realistic hope, meanwhile, into untrustworthy and unscrupulous hands. And it is to have done this, furthermore, in the service of blind faith. Mark my words: This disappointment is only the first of many that are still to come.

Sister Jean Marie

James Lileks has a post up at buzz.mn, “Who was your favorite elementary school teacher?” It got me thinking about the Catholic school I went to for fifth, sixth and seventh grades.

I remember Sister Jean Marie most of all. I had her for sixth and seventh grade math. Other teachers called her “an institution.” We called her old. We figured she’d probably taught Galileo math. We also figured she was probably the person who turned him in to the church.

She was mean. I don’t just mean strict, although she was certainly that. She enforced a rigid discipline in her class that no kid dared to defy. And we had some serious trouble-makers. We had one kid, Chester (no, that’s not his real name. I’ve changed the names of all the kids.), who was… troubled. Chester had a real-life pinball machine in his bedroom and lived in the French Quarter with his mother and our cross-dressing school music teacher, Mr. B (Opal to his good friends). Chester’s Mom and Mr. B didn’t live together so much as share rent. And I don’t mean to imply that Chester’s mom didn’t enjoy the company of men, because she did… extensively, maybe even professionally. (I do mean to imply that Mr. B also enjoyed the company of men, very much.) It was an odd house.

Chester was the kind of kid who, when the class was tasked with coloring in pretty little bunnies on Easter cards for the Children’s Hospital, would fill the bunnies on his cards entirely with black crayon and black magic marker . “Jungle Bunnies,” he called them. (Nice, I know. He had a lot of jokes that ran along similar lines; I’m unlucky enough to remember a few of them.) I remember that Mrs. L disapproved strongly. I’m pretty sure Chester got whacked with a ruler for that one. Of course, I think the cards still went out. There was a quota, after all.

Chester tortured poor Mrs. L. She was an old woman (aren’t they all when you’re in sixth grade?) with a giant, slate gray beehive hairdo. She wore giant faded muumuus with brown and yellow floral prints and taught history and social studies. And she had a glass eye. The eye would wander. Sometimes you couldn’t tell who Mrs. L was yelling at. It could just as easily be you or the kid across the room… there was no telling who she was looking at because she was staring both of you in the eye. Sometimes the glass eye would roll up toward the beehive… and then just keep on rolling on back until it was looking out the back of Mrs. Ls head. Then she’d stare at us with the one pale white eye, looking completely alien and vaguely reptilian. Until Chester would gently point it out, “Hey Miz L, yer eye has gone all freaky. Y’a looks kinda like a gater.”

But Chester was quiet as a mouse in Sister Jean Marie’s class.

Sister Jean Marie wasmean. Not just hard and tough and stern–although she was all of those things too. A dog that’s been beaten all its life can get mean: all spite and venom and filled up with a nasty desire to hurt. Sister Jean Marie was like that. Especially at the blackboard. Doing problems in front of the rest of class is never fun, but in her class it was torture and humiliation. “What’s wrong Lucy?” “It’s an easy problem, Lucy.” “God you are so stupid, Lucy.” “You have a brain like a sieve, Lucy.” “It’s a wonder you can remember how to stand up, Lucy.” “Go sit down Lucy. Let someone else do it right.”

I remember a friend and I going back to visit her when we were in High School. Well, OK. We didn’t go back to visit herso much as visit generally, but she was there and we spoke to her. It had been four years since we’d been in her class. She asked about Lucy. Lucy had gone to a different high school, neither of us knew her anymore. Sister Jean Marie told us again that Lucy was the stupidest girl she’d ever seen.

I know. It’s not funny anymore, I’m sorry.

I remember when Bobby didn’t do his homework. “Where’s your homework, Bobby?” “Lost it or forgot it, Bobby?” “Don’t lie to me, Bobby.” “Forgot it or didn’t do it, Bobby?” “I thought so.” “Do you think I’m stupid, Bobby?” “Of course you do.” “Now you’re crying?” “Why are you crying, Bobby?” “Are you a little baby, Bobby? “Crybaby Bobby.” “Don’t be a little crybaby.” “Crybaby Bobby. Why don’t you go sit in the corner and cry, crybaby?” “Of course you are. Go sit in the corner if you’re going to cry. Crybaby.”

There was a chair that faced a corner in the back of the room. It was where crybabies went to sit until they stopped crying. When they were done they had to ask permission to return to their desk. I sat in that chair. Not as much as Lucy or Bobby did, but I sat there. We all did. It wasn’t really math class unless some poor kid, desperate, humiliated, and mocked by the teacher, broke down sobbing; Lucy was usually the first to break. But at some point, we all did.

Sister Jean Marie had supernatural reflexes. She could stop a hulking 12 year-old boy charging at a dead run with one hand and flip him around like a paper doll. I saw her do it. The kid’s name was was Blake, and he was charging at me with evil intent. I can’t remember why, maybe it was a Tuesday. Sister plucked him neatly out the air with one hand and dropped him, meek and quivering, down in front of her. She spoke quietly, but firmly. It was at least a week before Blake bloodied my nose again–and never again anywhere near Sister Jean Marie. Not that I was a teacher’s pet, mind you. Sister Jean Marie was discipline incarnate, and running in the halls was simply not allowed. She didn’t care if I got caught, so long as it was a neat and orderly beating… with no running.

I had her for homeroom in sixth grade too. Some mornings she’d come in with little pieces of toilet paper stuck to her chin and cheeks. I kid you not, the woman shaved. She was tall, maybe six feet and rail thin. Her hands were like vice grips and her stare was hot and furious. She was lighting quick and razor sharp. And she was old school; she wore the habit and the blue dress. Always. Some of the other nuns, like Sister Lee, wore the habit at school, but took it off when they went… wherever it was that nuns go. Back to the nunnery, I suppose. Sister Lee was fun. She taught religion and drove a black Firebird Trans-am (complete with giant decal). She called me “Red” for an entire year. Sister Jean Marie didn’t drive a car. We all figured that she lived in the cloakroom and ate spiders.

But she taught me math. I remember once I failed a quiz. As punishment, Sister Jean Marie told me to write out the names of all fifty States and their capitals. I didn’t do it. So she doubled it. “Write them all out twice.” I didn’t do it. “Double it.” This went on daily for some time. It was like a ritual, we’d all file into class and sit down. She’d read attendance, (Yes, that’s right. She’d read attendance. There was no calling out at any time in Sister Jean Marie’s class.) she’d double my punishment. The days wore on. It was a kind of math lesson. By the end of the year, my punishment was to write out the States and their capitals over 16 million times. I remember figuring it out with a friend. If I wrote one word a second, nonstop, 24-hours a day, everyday for fifty years, I still wouldn’t finish.

I learned more math in her class than in any math class I’ve ever taken. She scared it into us. She made us fear her like I imagine she feared God. She instilled in us a biblical, old-testament kind of fear. We quaked in her presence and we obeyed, and we did what she said and we learned the Law and we lived the Law. If she said to sit the corner, we sat in the corner. If she had told us to wander the desert for forty years, we’d have done that too.

My favorite High School math teacher was Miss P. Miss P was the nicest, kindest, sweetest teacher I ever had. She was about four feet, six inches tall tall and must have weighed eighty pounds soaking wet. She ran the math club and carried a pearl-handled single-shot .22 in her purse. She was the math teacher that made me like math. She made math fun, and she made it exciting and competitive and entertaining. Heck, I went on out-of-state math club trips with her; I looked forward to the annual math convention every year. I played inter-scholastic math games every Tuesday and I liked it. (We played On-Sets and Equations… I’d love to hear from anyone else who’s played these games!)

Miss P had taken high school math from Sister Jean Marie. She said the same thing everyone said, that she’d learned more in those classes than anywhere else. She also said she owed her life’s work to Sister Jean Marie. She said that after that class she’d never wanted to do anything but teach high school math.

I’m glad I had Miss P for math. And I’m happy that she’s still teaching; she runs the math department in my old high school. I’m sure that that Sister Jean Marie must have retired from teaching by now.

I think of my children and I think of their teachers. They’re all Miss Ps (packing less firepower) and Sister Mary Lees (without the hot ride). I haven’t seen any of their music teachers, male or female, stumble drunkenly down the street wearing a pink wig, stilettos and a wedding dress. There have been no reports of glass eyes or beehives. And there’s been nothing to compare to Sister Jean Marie. I’m very grateful for that. As much as there is that bothers me in modern pedagogy (the incessant, pointless testing; the political correctness; the lack of academic rigor), I am happy to consign the systematic humiliation and ridicule of eleven-year olds to history.

I haven’t seen Lucy or Bobby in over 20 years; I hope they’re both well and happy and healthy.

And I don’t care how much math they learned.

Eliot Spitzer

It’s not about the sex.

Over the next few days and weeks, we’ll undoubtedly hear from various partisan loyalists, public apologists, and libertine evangelists. The meme will run along familiar, if treadworn, tracks: America is a land of prudes, we demonize sex, what does it matter who Spitzer slept with, it’s a private matter, personal affairs shouldn’t lead to public disgrace, as long as he was doing a good job, etc… etc….

But this is far from a purely private matter, and it’s most certainly not about the sex. As Attorney General, and then as the state’s chief executive, Spitzer has been charged with enforcing and upholding New York State law. If the allegations against Governor Spitzer are true, then he brazenly abdicated that responsibility.

At a minimum: Spitzer discovered the existence of an organized criminal network and failed to report or prosecute. He engaged in various deceptive tactics designed to shield both himself and the criminal enterprise from prosecution. He provided direct financial support to organized crime.

An affair is a lapse in judgment. Sleeping with an intern is a private matter. Perjury, obstruction, prostitution… those are crimes. As New York’s chief executive and its former chief prosecutor, Spitzer’s alleged actions stand as a stark rebuke of the public trust he accepted.

But his scorn for the process and purpose of the law shouldn’t be a surprise. Spitzer has long shown a willingness to bend political power to his personal will, whether by using the power of the State Police to attempt political blackmail, or by twisting the power of the law to intimidate, extort, and exact tribute from his victims. From the Wall Street Journal:

He routinely used the extraordinary threat of indicting entire firms, a financial death sentence, to force the dismissal of executives, such as AIG’s Maurice “Hank” Greenberg. He routinely leaked to the press emails obtained with subpoena power to build public animosity against companies and executives. In the case of Mr. Greenberg, he went on national television to accuse the AIG founder of “illegal” behavior. Within the confines of the law itself, though, he never indicted Mr. Greenberg. Nor did he apologize.

In perhaps the incident most suggestive of Mr. Spitzer’s lack of self-restraint, the then-Attorney General personally threatened John Whitehead after the former Goldman Sachs chief published an article on this page defending Mr. Greenberg. “I will be coming after you,” Mr. Spitzer said, according to Mr. Whitehead’s account. “You will pay the price. This is only the beginning, and you will pay dearly for what you have done.”

Jack Welch, the former head of GE, said he was told to tell Ken Langone — embroiled in Mr. Spitzer’s investigation of former NYSE chairman Dick Grasso — that the AG would “put a spike through Langone’s heart.” New York Congresswoman Sue Kelly, who clashed with Mr. Spitzer in 2003, had her office put out a statement that “the attorney general acted like a thug.”

These are not merely acts of routine political rough-and-tumble. They were threats — some rhetorical, some acted upon — by one man with virtually unchecked legal powers.

In a scathing indictment of Spitzer’s tenure as chief prosecutor, Roger Donway wrote:

His purpose in these campaigns has not been the narrow one of punishing law-breakers. Rather, he has sought a sweeping restructuring of the business landscape in order to make it accord with his moral vision, as though he were a religious dictator suddenly transplanted from the Middle East to Manhattan.

Spitzer made common use of an insidious New York State Law, the Martin Act, to work his will upon his victims. Donway describes the power of the laws Spitzer relied on:

[The Martin Act] empowers [New York’s attorney general] to subpoena any document he wants from anyone doing business in the state; to keep an investigation totally secret or to make it totally public; and to choose between filing civil or criminal charges whenever he wants. People called in for question during Martin Act investigations do not have a right to counsel or a right against self-incrimination. . . . Now for the scary part: To win a case, the AG doesn’t have to prove that the defendant intended to defraud anyone, that a transaction took place, or that anyone actually was defrauded. [emphasis added]

In leaks of the recorded conversations that Spitzer is alleged to have had with his favorite pimps, Spitzer supposedly asks of the young woman he’s hired, “What does she look like?” Mild curiosity at best. It didn’t matter to Spitzer who the young woman was, what her name was… she was merely an object of his gratification. A completely fungible object of his will, something to be rented, used, and then dismissed. Given his history, one wonders how many people Spitzer treated with similar contempt. The aides and advisers who worked for him? The innocent men and women who suffered his scorn and attention when he was Attorney General? The voters of New York? His wife and family?

In an eerily prescient (and ironic) passage, Donway describes Spitzer’s limitless ambition:

Virtually every article written about Eliot Spitzer accuses him of being politically ambitious. Typical was an article that appeared in Fortune; its author wrote: “Many a state attorney general has used the job as a springboard to higher political office. Rarely, however, has there been an example as egregious and blatant as that of Eliot Spitzer, current attorney general of New York State.” In response to these many accusations, Spitzer “replies that he’s happy to have people impugn his motives when they can’t challenge the merits of his actions.” [emphasis added]

The merits of his actions have been challenged. As have their legality. But in a further twist of irony and hypocrisy, Governor Spitzer will undoubtedly marshal a vigorous defense, surely invoking his constitutional right to counsel and against self-incrimination. But even in this, the last and final spasms of his public life, he has managed to deny his victims the same privileges he employs for his own purposes and aims.

There is no right against self-incrimination for Silda Wall Spitzer, no refuge of counsel for her shattered marriage or her daughters’ pain. That she stood by the man who betrayed her, who belittled and scorned his private vows and public oaths, is a testament to a profound courage and a singular strength. But neither strength or courage can mend wounds or heal what has been broken. Only time and tireless work can do that. Whether that work is worth doing, only she can decide.

Governor Spitzer may never see the inside of a jail, but the mask of grief that his wife wore at his side is a testament to the private prison into which this reckless and feckless bully has placed his family. Whether or not they can free themselves is a purely personal and private question. But for Spitzer’s other victims, the ones he denied constitutional rights, the ones he blackmailed and bullied, they deserve an apology as well.

A good first start would be a repeal of the Martin Act.

Economic Nonsense

Economic nonsense in the Times Online:
“The fundamental, and possibly fatal, flaw in all these well-meaning personal efforts [to reduce energy use] and well-intentioned government initiatives to tackle global warming is that the West’s entire strategy is based on restraining demand for, and use of, fuels. Yet this strategy will prove entirely futile unless the result is that the extraction and supply of these fossil fuels falls back as reduced demand puts downward pressure on their price.”

The mistake is in assuming that there’s actually some worthwhile point to reducing global energy consumption; there isn’t. Reducing personal energy consumption can make sense if you’re trying to save money, but reducing global energy use? It’s just silly. We don’t want to reduce the amount of energy the world uses, we want to increase the amount of energy the world uses. In a very real sense, energy use is the fundamental definition of wealth. The more energy we use, the longer we live, the better our lives are, etc… etc….

So the issue isn’t energy consumption so much as fossil fuel consumption. The author’s concern is that unless a reduction in demand leads to a reduction in supply, energy conservation won’t reduce the rate of fossil fuel consumption. And that’s exactly right. Why? Because oil is a commodity. A reduction in demand in location A just means that there’s more oil available for location B. Reduce demand in New York and more oil gets used in the Congo. The energy market is a global market and local variations have little effect on aggregate demand.

And from a strict conservation standpoint, shifting consumption from New York to the Congo would result in more pollution and significantly more waste. First-world industry is remarkably efficient and clean–we extract as much energy out of each barrel of oil as we possibly can (and we keep getting more and more efficient). But all that efficiency is expensive and time-consuming; third world economies just can’t match that level of efficiency. Shifting demand from New York to the Congo is a loss in terms of both efficiency and conservation.

But even that’s beside the point. Energy conservation on a massive scale is just poverty conservation. The point isn’t to reduce energy use, but to reduce fossil fuel consumption (well, it is for some people). And to do that, you need to replace fossil fuels with some form of alternative energy. But if we reduce energy consumption, then we reduce demand for fossil fuels, and as we reduce the demand for fossil fuels, we reduce the cost of fossil fuels, as we reduce the cost of fossil fuels, we reduce the incentives to develop and use alternative energy sources.

Alternative energy will only replace fossil fuels when alternative energy is less expensive than fossil fuel consumption.

But wait!!!! This only really works if the price of oil and the price of alternative energy actually reflects market demand and relative efficiencies. Subsidies, tax breaks, penalties, tariffs, and other restrictions will not work. A subsidy for alternative energy use, for example, doesn’t actually make the alternative energy more efficient or less costly than fossil fuel use, it only masks the cost difference by increasing the total cost of energy consumption. Drive up the relative price of oil, and demand will simply shift to locales that don’t penalize consumption.

So… if you want to see a real reduction in fossil fuel use, use more fossil fuels.

And don’t worry, we’ll never run out of fossil fuels. The price of fossil fuel consumption will rise to the point that further consumption doesn’t make economic sense. At that point, we’ll be using something else.

Note: It’s probably also worth pointing out the fact that the big issue surrounding fossil fuel consumption isn’t limited supply vs. unceasing demand (which is usually how the situation is characterized), but rather steadily increasing efficiency in combination with tightly controlled supply lines and unceasing demand. And while oil is very expensive right now, we only just (in the last two weeks) passed the previous inflation adjusted peak price set in 1979. Despite massive increases in demand and limited increases in supply, the adjusted price of Oil stayed relatively low for nearly 30 years–because increases in efficiency offset increases in demand. The same is generally true for all commodity prices, ingenuity tends–over the long-term–to negate price pressure from either supply or demand. This makes it exceedingly difficult to calculate global fuel reserves as the amount of known reserves are likely to last far longer than we currently expect them to.

Obama vs. Truth

The problem with pandering during a campaign is that it gets easier the more you do it, and if you do it often enough, you’ll eventually discover that you’ve made conflicting promises. And if you’re not careful, the people you’re making those promises to might suddenly begin to doubt your sincerity. This is the problem that Obama suddenly finds himself in. He’s been trying hard to be all things to all people and it’s beginning to make him look like a kind of a sleazebag.

First, he told the voters that he’d pull out of NAFTA if he couldn’t win certain concessions from the Canadians. But of course he knows that pulling out of NAFTA would be insane and impossible so his campaign goes to the Canadian embassy to assure them that he doesn’t really mean what he’s been saying to the voters. Nudge, nudge. Wink, wink.

Obama promised to pull out of Iraq within 16 months if he’s president. Now I think that’s nuts. Committing yourself to a military strategy 24 months in advance, with absolutely no idea of what the situation will be like when you take office is clearly insane. But Obama was courting the fringe left and had to distinguish himself from Hillary, so he made the 16 month commitment. But maybe not…. his campaign adviser, Samantha Power, said this:

“What he’s actually said, after meting with the generals and meeting with intelligence professionals, is that you – at best case scenario – will be able to withdraw one to two combat brigades each month. That’s what they’re telling him. He will revisit it when he becomes president,” Power says.

The host, Stephen Sackur, challenged her:”So what the American public thinks is a commitment to get combat forces out in 16 months isn’t a commitment isn’t it?”

“You can’t make a commitment in March 2008 about what circumstances will be like in January of 2009,” she said. “He will, of course, not rely on some plan that he’s crafted as a presidential candidate or a U.S. Senator. He will rely upon a plan – an operational plan – that he pulls together in consultation with people who are on the ground to whom he doesn’t have daily access now, as a result of not being the president. So to think – it would be the height of ideology to sort of say, ‘Well, I said it, therefore I’m going to impose it on whatever reality greets me.'”

“It’s a best-case scenario,” she said again. (Politico.com)

So, Obama was pandering, we all knew he was pandering… right? I mean, he got caught in a bit of electoral shenanigans right? What Power lays out is reasonable and understandable, right?

Maybe not. Power resigned and apologized (although she resigned and apologized for calling Hillary Clinton a monster, not for trying to be reasonable about foreign policy).

Obama campaign manager David Plouffe disagreed Friday with the suggestion that it would be responsible to leave “a little wiggle room” when establishing the date by which all U.S. combat troops should be out of Iraq.

“He has been and will continue to be crystal clear with the American people that if and when he is elected president, we will be out of Iraq in – as he said, the time frame would be about 16 months at the most where you withdraw troops. There should be no confusion about that with absolute clarity,” said Plouffe. (ABC News)

OK! Finally! So Power was out of line! “There should be no confusion about that with absolute clarity,” that seems pretty hard and fast, right? Well…..

“And you pull out according to that time table, regardless of the situation? Even if there’s serious sectarian violence?” CBS’s Kroft asked.

“No, I always reserve as commander in chief, the right to assess the situation,” Obama replied.

Ahhhh…… clarity.

Insurance?

A great article on health “insurance” is up here. Worth reading.

“If the insurance company is going to pay for things that are nearly certain to happen, they have to charge a big enough premium to pay for that and some extra to pay expenses. For a long time, this wasn’t noticeable, because companies were paying in those nice pre-tax discounted dollars, but it’s always been true. If you sell a life insurance policy for a hundred-year-old man with failing kidneys and pneumonia, the premium is going to be a little bit more than the face value of the policy; if you have to pay for the health care that is almost certain to be needed, every year, you’re going to have to charge a little more than that health care will cost.”

I work at a health “insurance” company and I can attest that the vast majority of people I work with have a hard time understanding these problems.

Hillary Wins

CNN won’t do it, and neither will Fox. I’m going to scoop all the major news outlets. I’m calling the Democratic nomination. Hillary will win. All she has to do is stay in the race.

It won’t be decided until the convention and the super delegates will certainly play a deciding role, but I don’t think the floor fight will be very bitter. Obama will struggle initially but will graciously accept the inevitable–especially if he’s given the VP nomination. Here’s my thinking:

Hillary Clinton’s campaign for the Democratic nomination received more than just a reprieve yesterday after winning both the Texas and Ohio primaries. Although Clinton didn’t make much headway in the delegate count, the margin of her victory in Ohio gives her hope that she can win Pennsylvania by as wide a margin, and continue to chip away at Obama’s delegate lead in the coming months.

Of course, the conventional thinking says that the math is just too difficult, that the margins that Clinton would need to win by are impossible. But I think that’s misleading. First, Clinton demonstrated in Ohio that she can win by large margins, and if she can continue to carry the larger states, she’ll continue to cut into Obama’s delegate lead. She may not erase it entirely, but she can reduce it.

And remember — there’s still Michigan and Florida. Clinton won Michigan handily (Obama wasn’t on the ballot) and she won Florida handily as well. She’d likely do very well in both states even if they both voted again. And even if they delegates aren’t seated (which I think is unlikely), Clinton will argue that the Super Delegates should take the results of the Michigan and Florida primaries into consideration (after all, the nominee will have to win Florida in the General election). But ultimately, Clinton can argue that the voters in Michigan and Florida should not be disenfranchised. Whether the states violated party rules or not, the argument to intentionally and deliberately disenfranchise millions of voters is not an argument that the Obama campaign will want to make very strenuously. The Michigan and Florida delegates will be seated at the convention and Hillary will have a significant majority of them.

Finally, there’s still seven weeks till the Pennsylvania primary. Then more weeks and months after that as every possible delegate is fought over tooth and nail. While the length of this primary campaign initially worked in Obama’s favor, allowing him to surprise a complacent Clinton campaign, that’s not the case anymore. Obama can only be hurt by a prolonged campaign at this point. The Rezko trial is just starting and we haven’t heard the last about NaftaQuiddick.

The NAFTA gaffe–the campaign’s assurances to the Canadian Embassy that Obama didn’t really mean what he was saying in the primaries–will continue to haunt Obama. It’s the kind of mistake that has the potential to completely unravel his campaign. After all, if Obama is a lying, sleazy politician, what makes him any different?

Obama is also a young, inexperienced campaigner. Hillary isn’t. Obama will make more mistakes over the coming months than Clinton will. All Clinton needs to do is sit tight, stay on message, smile, and slowly pick away at Obama. She doesn’t need to dazzle, she doesn’t need to shine, she just needs to stay the course–and get Michigan and Florida. Obama, on the other hand, does need to dazzle because when Michigan and Florida are counted, Obama is the one who’s trailing.

So, Hillary will win the nomination (as long as she stays in long enough to get Michigan and Florida seated and in). That’s my prediction, for what it’s worth. (Not much.)

Of course, the cost of the extended primary may be devastating to the democratic ticket in the general election. If I were John McCain, I’d start laying the groundwork for the general campaign, but I’d stay well out of the spotlight for a few months.