Hillary Clinton: “No Sex In My White House”

March 10, 2008

After hearing about the article on the website of The New York Times that reported that Governor Spitzer of New York had been caught on a federal wiretap arranging to meet a prostitute in Washington, I called the Clinton campaign to get a reaction from Hillary.  Unfortunately, her deputy assistant communications director in charge of blogger relations, Brad Roachly, refused to let me speak with Hillary.  I asked why not and was told that I was just a minor blogger not worth his or her time.  I accused him of refusing to let me speak with his boss because I had written pro-Obama blog posts, but he denied having ever read my blog and assured me that Hillary wouldn’t have spoken with me even if I had written that Obama was a Muslim with three secret wives (in addition to Michelle) living in his grandmother’s house in Kenya.  I asked him Obama did have three more wives in Kenya.  He replied “Not as far as I know.”

Anyway, here is my interview with Hillary as I think it might have gone if she had actually spoken with me:

RB: Thanks for speaking with me, Senator Clinton.

HC: Just call me Hillary, RB.  We weren’t friends before this interview, but I’m sure we’ll be friends by the time we’re done.

RB: Thanks, Hillary. What is your reaction to the Times article reporting that Governor Spitzer was involved with a high-price prostitution ring?

HC: Well, naturally I feel tremendous sympathy for his wife having been in a similar position.  My prayers go out to Eliot, his wife, Silda, and the rest of their family.

RB: Do you believe that the charges against Governor Spitzer are true?

HC: Well, I have no evidence one way or the other, but he is a man.

RB: What do you mean by that, Hillary?

HC: Well, I’ve learned through personal experience — that the whole country knows about of course — that men, even good men, have certain vulgar impulses and desires that they find incredibly hard to control.  So, Eliot could easily been overcome and lead astray by his urges.

RB: Are you suggesting that all men are subject to these urges?

HC: Of course not.  I mean that’s  … you know, I have no basis for saying that all men are like that. But many probably are.

RB: Do you think Senator Obama is subject to these urges?

HC: Oh, I’m sure he is.  But please don’t take that the wrong way.  I doubt he’s ever acted out his urges, that is, if he even has them.  And I’m not saying he does have any urges, other than the urge to serve his country before he’s ready.

RB: But you’re suggesting that he could have urges similar to those that Governor Spitzer and your own husband demonstrated. Aren’t you?

HC: Right, right.  He could have these urges.

RB: Are you aware of any other urges he might have?

HC: No. Not really.  I wouldn’t really want to speculate about any urges he might have to gamble, drink, or do drugs.  I mean, we know he did do drugs as a kid, but he’s indicated that he’s stayed clean the last 20 years and I take him at his word that he’s done with all that.

RB: You mean with drugs, drinking, and gambling?

HC: And anything else he might have been guilty of.

RB: Such as?

HC: Well, any strange rituals he might have learned growing up with Muslims in foreign countries.  I trust he’s given those up and won’t introduce any of them into the White House.

RB: Are you worried that he might bring other things into the White House that don’t belong there?

HC: No, not really.  I don’t think he would bring a Koran with him to the Oval Office.  Not that there would be anything wrong with him bringing it into the Executive Residence.

RB: Why are you suggesting that he would bring a Koran to the White House? You recently denied in a 60 Minutes Interview that Senator Obama is a Muslim.

HC: That’s true. But that doesn’t mean he doesn’t own a Koran.  He might have been given one as a gift or he might have purchased one to learn about his roots.

RB: Are you saying that it would be wrong for Senator Obama  or anyone else to bring a Koran into the Oval Office?

HC: No. No. It wouldn’t be wrong.  But I’m not sure the American people would be comfortable with that.  You know, RB, there are many things that we sophisticated Big State Democrats are comfortable with that ordinary Americans in small states are not.  When I’m President, I will be sensitive to their sensibilities.

RB: Wouldn’t Senator Obama be sensitive about that too, Hillary?

HC: Oh, I’m sure he would be — as far as he could be.  But sensitivity is something that takes a long time to fully learn and Barack is a young man.  He might be sensitive enough in 8 years to be President, but I’ll be sensitive on Day One.

RB: I’d like to get back to the question of prostitution.  You said that Senator Obama could have the same urges as Governor Spitzer.  Are you worried that Senator Obama would bring prostitutes to the White House if he were elected President?

HC: No, I’m not that worried about it.  I’ve met Michelle Obama and know she’s a tough one.

RB: So, you think his fear of being caught by Michelle would stop him?

HC: Well, she’s not afraid to speak her mind.  She did say she had not been proud of her country until people started voting for her husband.

RB: Did you find that unpatriotic?

HC: I’d rather not say. I think the American people can judge that for themselves.  Michelle is a lovely person and was probably just under a lot of stress.

RB: Why is that?

HC: I mean, she must be very nervous about Barack actually winning this race.  Not that I’ll let that happen.

RB: Why would she be nervous about his winning the race?

HC: Isn’t that obvious, RB?

RB: Not to me.

HC: That’s because you’re a nice Liberal Blogger.  You might have a hard time believing it, but there are still people in this country who do not want to see a Black man in the White House except in the movies.

RB: Are you saying someone like that might try to assassinate him?

HC: It’s certainly something to fear.  After all, the Secret Service can’t guarantee the safety of a President if he takes risks.

RB: You mean risks like visiting prostitutes?

HC: Well, that would certainly be a risk, both to Barack and Michelle.

RB: But do you think Barack would actually do that?

HC: Oh, I don’t think he would.  But I can’t say with certainty that he wouldn’t.

RB: Can you guarantee that there won’t be any more sex scandals in the White House if you’re elected President?

HC: Oh, I can guarantee that.  There won’t be any sex at all in my White House. 

RB: Thanks for taking the time to speak with me, Hillary.

HC: Anytime.  You know I’m very other-focused, so I’m glad I could help you with your blog today.  Let me know if you need me to deny any more rumours about Barack.

More on Clinton’s Poor Management of Her Campaign

March 10, 2008

As an update to my blog post that compared the management skills of Senators Clinton and Obama, I suggest you read today’s article in The New York Times called “Sniping by Aides Hurt Clinton’s Image as Manager”.

New Clinton Spin on Caucus Delegates

March 10, 2008

Chuck Todd wrote an interesting article on MSNBC today about how the Clinton campaign is now distinguishing between pledged delegates won in primaries and caucuses.  Asked how she can win the nomination when she is so far behind in the delegates race, Clinton told Newsweek that there are three kinds of delegates — “elected delegates, caucus delegates, and superdelegates” — by which she clearly meant that “elected delegates” are those selected in primaries. Her phrasing conveys the impression that the caucus delegates were not really elected and somehow have less legitimacy than those won in primaries.  Here is her full answer to the question:

It doesn’t look bleak at all. I have a very close race with Senator Obama. There are elected delegates, caucus delegates and superdelegates, all for different reasons, and they’re all equal in their ability to cast their vote for whomever they choose. Even elected and caucus delegates are not required to stay with whomever they are pledged to. This is a very carefully constructed process that goes back years, and we’re going to follow the process.

Beyond implying that caucus delegates have less legitimacy than those picked in primaries, she also appears to be suggesting that she might try to persuade some of Obama’s pledged delegates to support her at the Democratic National Convention in August.  While that might conform to the rules, it would be highly distasteful and probably harm the Democratic Party.

Clinton obviously could have said “primary delegates, caucus delegates, and superdelegates”, but did not.  She also could have simply talked about “pledged delegates and superdelegates” as is usually done.  It is particularly interesting that she did make the distinction because it was not required to make her point that all the delegates are free to support anyone they want at the convention.  Her wording made Chuck Todd think that Clinton and her campaign staff have been formulating a new argument to discount the importance of the delegates Obama won in so many caucuses, the ones that have given him his big lead over her.  I suspect that her phrasing was a premature and accidental revelation of this new argument.

Todd pointed out that Governor Rendell of Pennsylvania, a Clinton supporter, argued that new caucuses in Florida and Michigan would be less democratic than new primaries.  In fairness, he was talking about Michigan and Pennsylvania and did not imply that delegates won in caucuses should count less than those won in primaries.  But his remarks could be further evidence of the caucus vs. primary argument that the Clinton campaign might be constructing.

Todd calculated that Obama has currently won more delegates than Clinton even just counting those selected in primaries: approximately 1,086-8 to 1,074-6.  But, that is a smaller lead than the one he holds counting all pledged delegates won so far.  This gap is small enough that Clinton could overtake him (in pledged primary delegates) if she wins Pennsylvania’s primary and possible new primaries in Michigan and Florida.  Fortunately for Obama and for the integrity of our democratic process, she can make any argument she wants but all the delegates Obama won in caucuses will still be seated and be able to vote for him.

All that being said, I actually do agree that primaries are more democratic than caucuses and would like to see all states use them in the future.  However, I do not believe it is fair to make a distinction at this point in time for the current election.  Obama won his caucus delegates fair and square and any attempt to discount them should be rejected by the superdelegates.

Florida and Michigan Superdelegates Should Not Be Reinstated

March 10, 2008

While I have been advocating new Democratic primaries in Florida and Michigan in this blog and was one of the first people to propose financing them with money raised through donations, I am against the reinstatement of the superdelegates from these states.

I have consistently supported two principles in several blog posts about the possibility of new primaries in these states:

  1. The DNC delegate selection rules must be respected to avoid chaos in the scheduling of primaries in future elections.
  2. Operating within those rules, Florida and Michigan should hold new primaries or caucuses so that the voices of voters in these states can be heard.

The second principle does not require that the superdelegates should be reinstated.  It is the pledged delegates who represent the voices of the voters based on actual elections.  The superdelegates primarily represent themselves rather than the voters of their states.  It is entirely possible to respect the second principle by holding new primaries in Florida and Michigan and only seating the pledged delegates selected by the voters.  In fact, there are good reasons to not seat the superdelegates if new primaries are held.

The Florida and Michigan Democratic Parties both knew the DNC delegate selection rules ( published in August, 2006) long before these states scheduled their rule-breaking primaries that took place in January.  While an argument can be made that it was the Republican-dominated Florida legislature that set Florida’s January 29 primary date, the Florida Democratic Party could have decided to run its own voting contest on a later date and could have refused to participate on the date picked by the Florida legislature.  The DNC even recommended that Florida have a separate caucus on a later date (that would adhere to the DNC rules) before stripping Florida of its delegates in August, 2007.  So, the Florida Democratic Party had plenty of time to schedule a primary or caucus on a different date.  Unfortunately, Florida’s state party chairwoman, Karen Thurman, complained at the time (in a Washington Post article) that the Florida Democratic Party did not have the money to run its own caucus; she and the rest of the leadership of the Florida Democrats should have been a little creative and searched for ways to raise the required funds as is now being proposed by people like James Carville, Senator Bill Nelson, Governor Corzine, and Governor Rendell.

Similarly, Michigan was stripped of its delegates in November, 2007 after setting its January 15 primary date.  But Michigan Democratic Chairman Mark Brewer arrogantly told MSNBC at the time that he did not think the delegates would be lost for good and said he expected the Democratic presidential nominee would insist that the state’s delegates be seated.  He knew the rules and knew the penalty, but didn’t believe the penalty would stick.

I believe that the superdelegates from Florida and Michigan should not be reinstated for the following reasons:

  1. Florida and Michigan violated the DNC delegate selection rules and deserve some sort of penalty.  While it is desirable to hold new primaries or caucuses in these states so that their voters can participate in the nomination process, these states should not get off scot free.  By not reinstating the superdelegates of these states, the DNC would penalize the people who had the greatest ability to avoid the illegal January primary dates.  This would send a clear message to state-level party leaders in all states that any future attempts to hold early voting contests would ultimately penalize those party leaders directly.
  2. Senator Clinton has been the primary advocate of either reinstating the Florida and Michigan delegates or holding new contests in these states.  She has clearly been motivated by Senator Obama’s lead in the delegates race.  She needs the delegates from these states to be reinstated much more than Obama does.  The voters and superdelegates of these states might therefore be somewhat biased in favor of Clinton because of her advocacy to count their delegates.  There is nothing that can be done about voter bias while respecting principle 2 above; Obama will just have to live with that bias and strive to turn out as many voters as possible.  But it is possible to avoid bias amongst the superdelegates by simply not reinstating them.  (Please note my comment below where I point out that I would want to avoid bias in favor of either candidate and would make the same argument if it was Obama who needed the delegates more than Clinton.)

So, while I continue to advocate new primaries in Florida and Michigan, I oppose the reinstatement of the superdelegates from these states.

Early and Final Results from Wyoming Caucus

March 8, 2008

So far, 78% of the vote is in from the Democratic Wyoming Caucus.  The results look good for Obama.  At this point, he was beating Clinton 59% to 40%.  More importantly, he has won more counties and has won more counties with more than 60% of the vote.  Winning counties by more than 60% could help him get an even bigger share of Wyoming’s 12 delegates. Out of 23 counties, he has won 11 of those who reported full results while Clinton has only won 7.  Of these 18 reporting counties, Obama won 7 of them with 60% of the vote or more.  Clinton did not win any counties with this margin.

You can see updated results at CNN’s Election Center  including county-level maps and tables.

Here is the map as displayed at 3:10 PM EST today:

Wyoming County Map from CNN

Postscript: Here is the final map.  Obama won 4 of the remaining 5 counties while Clinton won 1.  However, two counties that had originally seemed to be Clinton wins ended up being ties.  The final score was: Obama 15, Clinton 6, Tied 2.  Overall, Obama won 61% of the vote while Clinton won 38%.  The final delegate allocation according to ABC and CBS was 7 to 5 in favor of Obama.  So, Obama increased his delegate lead by 2.

Final Wyoming Caucus Map

Misguided Analysis of Electability

March 8, 2008

Several articles I have read about the electability of Senators Obama and Clinton indicate that many people (especially Clinton supporters) are misguided in their analysis.  An example is a an article from today’s issue of The Washington Post.  The article discusses that Obama’s strategy has been to rack up delegates in lots of Republican states (many of which held caucuses) to overcome the advantage Clinton has in Democratic strongholds.  Several people interviewed in the article expressed concern about the fact that Clinton has bested Obama within several demographic groups such as working-class whites and Latinos.

These people are misguided because all that really matters is whether Obama or Clinton can beat McCain in enough states to win enough votes in the Electoral College in November.  It doesn’t matter if a group of people prefers Clinton to Obama as long as they prefer Obama to McCain.  For instance, there is very little doubt that California, New York, and Massachusetts would vote for Obama over McCain in November even though these states voted for Clinton over Obama in the Super Tuesday primaries.  Likewise, it doesn’t really matter whether Latinos prefer Clinton to Obama; what matters is whether they prefer Clinton or Obama to McCain.

I have not yet seen any polls comparing how Latinos would currently vote in a McCain/Obama contest, but a CNN poll of Latinos in Texas found that 81% of Latinos in Texas a quick troop withdrawal from Iraq.  That might lead them to support Obama over McCain even though they went for Clinton in the Texas primary.    Additionally, the CNN article about the poll reported that a prominent Latino Republican adviser, Lionel Sosa, has repeatedly warned that the Republican Party will lose the Latino vote if it does not change its rhetoric on immigration.  While all Democratic candidates have actively been campaigning in Latino communities, the Republican candidates were “fighting to see who is more anti-immigration” according to Lionel Sosa.  McCain supports a border fence but has had a softer approach on the immigration issue than most other Republicans.  The poll also showed that 78% of Texas Latinos favor bilingual education programs, another thing Republicans have opposed.  Finally, even though Texas Latinos leaned toward Clinton, it is not the case that they did not like Obama; the poll showed that 76% of them had a favorable view of Clinton, 66% had a favorable view of Obama, and only 48% had a favorable view of McCain.  (Only 34% had a favorable view of Bush.)  Given all this data, I suspect that Latinos in Texas, California, and other states would strongly support Obama over McCain.  So, their preference for Clinton over Obama is no reason to worry about his losing their votes in November. 

Along these lines, a recent state-by-state poll by SurveyUSA predicted that Obama would beat McCain in the Electoral College 280 to 258, wining the Northeast states, the Potomac states, the upper Midwest, the West coast, Hawaii, Colorado, Nevada, and New Mexico but losing Florida, Pennsylvania, and New Jersey.  SurveyUSA predicted that Clinton would also beat McCain in the Electoral College 276 to 262, winning the Northeast (including Pennsylvania and New Jersey but not New Hampshire), Maryland (but not Virginia), some of the upper Midwest (but not as many as Obama), California (but surprisingly not Washington and Oregon), Hawaii, New Mexico, and Florida.  So, the margins would be quite similar for Obama and Clinton.

Here are the electoral college maps published by Survey USA:

Obama vs. McCain

Clinton vs. McCain 

Senator Nelson Proposes Plan for New Florida Primary

March 8, 2008

Democratic Senator Bill Nelson of Florida told Newsweek  yesterday that he has discussed plans for a new primary in Florida with the Florida Democratic Party, Florida’s Governor Charlie Crist, and the DNC.  His plan is similiar to the proposal  I have made in that it would solve the thorny issue of funding by paying for a new primary with donations.  More specifically, he has proposed that the Florida Democratic Party could raise “soft money” to fund the primary.  This is also similar to what James Carville  seemed to suggest on CNN’s The Situation Room yesterday afternoon.

Nelson indicated that he and Governor Crist met earlier this week and agreed on 3 points about solving the Florida delegate issue:

  1. A revote should be held.
  2. The revote should be a primary conducted via mail-in ballots.
  3. The Florida taxpayers should not bear the costs.

He also indicated that the DNC’s legal counsel determined that it would be legal for the Florida Democratic Party to raise soft money for a revote.

Soft money is money raised by organizations such as 527 groups that is not spent to directly advocate the election of a particular candidate.  For example soft money can be used for voter registration efforts and to promote positions on specific issues.  Individuals and groups can donate more soft money to such groups then they can directly to candidates and the national political parties.  The latter were banned from accepting soft money by the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act of 2002, otherwise known as the McCain-Feingold Act.  But the ban does not apply to the state political parties.

The bottom line here is that it’s looking more and more likely that a new primary will be held in Florida.  While the Obama campaign has not yet signaled its support for a new primary in Florida, it won’t really have any choice if the Florida Democratic Party submits a plan for a new primary to the DNC and the DNC approves it.

More Republicans Would Vote for Obama than for Clinton

March 7, 2008

CNN reported the results of an ABC/Washington Post poll that asked how people would vote in McCain/Obama and McCain/Clinton matchups in November.  Amongst other things, the poll measured the percentages of Republicans and Democrats that would vote for candidates from the opposite party.  These results showed that more Republicans would vote for Obama over McCain than for Clinton over McCain.

In particular, 16% of Republicans said they would vote for Obama over McCain.  Only 9% of Republicans would vote for Clinton over McCain.  The head-to-head matchups showed:

Obama beating McCain 52% to 40% (with 8% undecided)
Clinton beating McCain 50% to 44% (with 6% undecided)

So, these are more datapoints suggesting that Obama is more electable than Clinton in November.

Clinton Campaign Just Offered to Raise $15 Million to Cover New Primaries in Florida and Michigan

March 7, 2008

James Carville, a Clinton supporter, just announced on CNN’s Situation Room that the Clinton campaign can quickly line up $15 Million to help underwrite the costs of new primaries in Florida and Michigan and would do so if the Obama campaign also did the same.  He even said he had big donors ready to contribute.  Unfortunately, the Obama surrogate who appeared opposite Carville, David Wilhelm, seemed reluctant to agree to this proposal.  I suspect that he did not feel he had the authority to accept this proposal on behalf of the Obama campaign.  Wilhelm ultimately did say that Carville’s proposal would be “one of the options on the table”  and “a reasonable position” but he did not want to hammer out an agreement on the show.  He seemed more focused on scoring political points about the Clinton campaign’s former advocacy of counting the original primaries.

Carville’s proposal is essentially in line with my proposals in recent blog posts  in which I suggested that the states and campaigns could raise the money needed for new primaries in Florida and Michigan through voluntary donations from voters.

Now the ball is in the Obama campaign’s court.  I hope they quickly step up and agree to contribute or raise the same $15 Million that the Clinton campaign (through Carville) agreed to raise.  Note that while Carville might have been talking about raising “soft money” from big donors, it would probably be easy to raise the money from ordinary voters $25, $50, and $100 at a time.

New Contests in Florida and Michigan Would Bring Higher Threshold for Victory

March 7, 2008

An article  on CNN.com about the possibility of new contests in Florida and Michigan made a the following erroneous statement:

“Now, neither Illinois Sen. Barack Obama nor Clinton will be able to attain the 2,024 delegates needed to clinch the nomination without delegates from Florida and Michigan.”

The current number of delegates (2,025) needed to win the Democratic nomination is predicated on the fact that both Florida and Michigan were stripped of their delegates for holding their primaries early leaving only 4,049 delegates.  If they held new contests and their pledged delegates and superdelegates were reinstated, then the total number of delegates would increase by 366 (210 from Florida and 156 from Michigan) giving a total number of delegates of 4,415 which means the winning candidate would need 2,208 delegates to win the nomination.

While it is true that neither Clinton nor Obama can win the nomination with pledged delegates alone, the target number of 2,025 can and will be achieved by one of them after all officially recognized delegates are counted.  (Even if the difference between them was so small that John Edwards’ 26 pledged delegates were needed, he or the delegates would ultimately end up going over to Clinton or Obama and a winner would still be declared.)  The candidates do not need delegates from Florida or Michigan in order to win the nomination.

It is possible that the writer of the article meant to say that neither candidate would win the nomination with pledged delegates alone without Florida and Michigan.  That would have made a little more sense, but only a little.  There are 611 remaining pledged delegates as I discussed in a recent post.  According to CNN’s Election Center, Obama currently has 1,326 pledged delegates and Clinton has 1,198 pledged delegates.  So, it is true that neither one of them can currently win the nomination with pledged delegates alone.  However, if Florida’s 185 and Michigan’s 128 pledged delegates were reinstated, there would then be a total of 924 pledged delegates remaining.  So, Obama could theoretically win the nomination in that case with pledged delegates alone if he won 881 of the remaining 924 delegates.  But given the fact that delegates in the Democratic party are split proportionally, that is virtually impossible.  So, even if the writer did mean to say that reinstating the pledged delegates from Florida and Michigan would enable one of the candidates to win with pledged delegates alone, he or she was still wrong in practical terms.

That being said, I do believe that new primaries should be held in both states so that the voices of the voters in these states can be heard.  See my previous post  on this topic regarding how new primaries could be financed by voluntary donations from voters in Florida and Michigan and the rest of the country.