US Army Blogging Against Obama with Your Tax Dollars [Update]

Whoops.  Glad this saw the mainstream light of day, thanks to The Huffington Post, but as it was on a national-security themed column in the Washington Post it may be worth a bit more exposure here, regarding the Army's public affairs office daily roundup of Army-related news called Stand To:


Tuesday's edition contained an entry under "WHAT'S BEING SAID IN BLOGS" that struck me as unusual -- both for its headline and its patent political bias:


Obama: World peace thru surrender (KDIHH)

[...]

Seriously? Have any of these people actually read the Obama defensepolicypapers or speeches -- or are they simply going on what they hear on Fox News and the Limbaugh network?

And more to the point, why is the Army's official in-house public affairs shop linking to this kind of stuff? Just a few weeks ago, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff told all hands to stay out of politics: "As the nation prepares to elect a new president, we would all do well to remember the promises we made: to obey civilian authority, to support and defend the Constitution and to do our duty at all times.... Keeping our politics private is a good first step." He added: "The only things we should be wearing on our sleeves are our military insignia."

Unfortunately, the message didn't get to through to the Army.  

Let's be clear: It is okay for the services to have a message. Both the Early Bird and Stand To speak for the Pentagon and the Army as institutions, and that's okay. They generally support the troops, the military, the chain of command, and the current endeavors in Iraq and Afghanistan. Nothing wrong with that.

And I have no objections to what Mr. Hooah wrote, besides the fact that I think it's factually wrong. He has his opinion; I have mine.

But the Stand To page is different -- and Tuesday's edition crosses the line.  This isn't some citizen's blog or website. It's the in-house public affairs digest of the United States Army.  It should not be amplifying partisan political attacks, nor should it be airing them at all.  This appears like yet another example of the unusually cozy relationship which has developed over the last generation or so between the military and the right wing of American politics -- an unhealthy development, to say the least.

Philip Carter - Army Shows Its Colors WaPo 12 Jun 08

I'll say.  And one wonders what the best way to push back on this kind of thing might be.  E-mail your Congressperson?  Get Move On on the case?  Thoughts, folks?

[Update]: Brigadier General Anthony A. Cucolo III, Chief of Public Affairs, US Army is apparently reachable via anthony.cucolo@hqda.army.mil. The Army Public Affairs website doesn't seem to have a direct email address. Funny, that. Stand To has a feedback address as well, stand-to@smc.army.mil. Drop 'em a line and let them know how you feel, I reckon.

[Update]: As pointed out by Steve M the link to the anti-Obama blogsite no longer appears in the edition of Stand To in question. That was pretty quick.

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MyDD Ahead of the Curve on Unity

This is one of those short, one notion diaries but I feel compelled to acknowledge the unique experience we have enjoyed here over the past few days.

The recent history of MyDD during this primary season has been exceptional, originally a very pro-Edwards site, based on it's population it became a Clinton-oriented refuge while maintaining a fairly even distribution on the front page.  And throughout there has been a strong and persistent Obama minority which I have been proud to number myself among.

While other progressive blogs became, appropriately or otherwise, largely pro-Obama bastions, and other sites emerged which were virulently anti-Obama in Hillary's cause, MyDD remained a hotly contested crucible for inflammatory arguments for and against Hillary's and Obama's respective candidacies.  While the recommended list was conceded the comment threads never were and the arguments pro and con were pursued with a tenacity, and perhaps a polemic enthusiasm, which raised ire and threatened civility more than many other first-rank forums in the blogosphere.

I think we all despaired, at one time or another, that this division was an indication of the perilous and damaging condition of the party in this crucial presidential election, yet we stuck to our principles and fought on with dedication and loyalty to our respective candidates.

But now, while the sluggish media is still mesmerised by the narrative of the party's divisions we are witness here to a remarkable and inspiring spirit of reconciliation.  Leading diarists for Hillary's cause have written, with profound courage and insight, on the real challenges facing us as Democrats and have been received, by and large, with a warm response by their former adversaries.

Today I am proud of the MyDD community and the population of posters here who are demonstrating qualities which call on our higher political and ideological virtues and likely insure our victory in this election.  Whether by accident or design, and as a consequence of the dynamics of this site over the last few months, if feels like we as a community are leading the way at the moment in forging an alliance which bodes well for Democrats in this election cycle and beyond.

I am proud to consider myself a MyDD'er today and that pride extends to the adversaries I have sparred with all these long months.  We are clearly greater than the sum of our parts.

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The Virtue of Political Discipline

In the wake of Senator Obama's historic victory it may well be worth noting the single deciding factor in the widely acknowledged skill with which his campaign was conducted:


...a critical mass of progressive Americans are learning political discipline again: the disciplines that had been carried like rare seeds through a decades-long desert by the few and the proud that had continued the study and practice of community organizing.

We are today reading a plethora of columns by pundits and reporters marveling at the discipline of the Obama campaign and its successes. Every single one of those successes can be traced to a single core factor: Barack Obama was one of the few, even in politics, that had carried the community organizer torch all these years. Those principles were infused into every aspect of the campaign. The community had simply become an entire country.

Al Giordano - No More Drama The Field 5 Jun 08

As Al further notes in a link to Karen Tumulty in Time:


When Betsy Myers first met with Obama in his Senate office on Jan. 3, 2007, about two weeks before he announced he was forming an exploratory committee to run for President, Obama laid down three ruling principles for his future chief operating officer: Run the campaign with respect; build it from the bottom up; and finally, no drama.

Karen Tumulty - How Obama Did It Time 5 Jun 08

This is the legacy of Saul Alinsky and his legendary Rules for Radicals on a national scale.  The patient transmission of these hard-learned lessons in the labour movement and community activist groups for a generation has finally borne fruit in national politics, bursting on the scene with unanticipated success.

And the breakthrough is not just one of national politics, but has already had an unprecedented impact on our national culture of 'individuality' which sadly has largely compartmentalised us into isolated consumers of information, ideology and entertainment, often co-mingled into a pastiche with little usefulness in changing our physical reality.  The result has crippled our solidarity as willing movement-oriented participants in the political process and led to an unwittingly selfish and fractious attitude toward collective action:


The presumption by so many Americans (the international leader in these indulgent personality traits, and this, one of its last export products to the rest of the world) that their precious sense of "individuality" gives them the 24 hour right to use all public forums as personal therapy sessions to vent and inflict their every perceived psychological misery upon others is a big part of what has made serious political movements in the US impossible for so long. Anybody that has attended a political "meeting" at which there was a "decision making process" has seen the tyranny of the individual crash down upon the collective imperative again and again. "Acting out" - without discipline nor regard for the hijacking nature of such behavior - had become considered a sacrament, rather than the sabotage that it was and is.

Al Giordano - No More Drama The Field 5 Jun 08

Well, we have now been given a dramatic lesson in how powerful we can be when these 'bad habits' are unlearned, even for a few short months.  Senator Obama's policies, taken one at a time, are no more radical in detail than those of any of his opponents, some of them even less than theirs, but his over-arching strategy of applying the simple, basic precepts of community organizing in electoral politics has defied the conventional wisdom of the punditry, the political establishment and, yes, the citizenry themselves.  Hang on to your hats, folks, we could end up miles from here.

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Goodnight Irene

Well, Al Giordano, who has become a 'must read' serious pundit and number cruncher over at The Field with a pretty realistic handle on things, though clearly in the tank for Obama, sums it up pretty well:


There is no question any more that - despite the pronunciations of the dead-enders and the fantastic dark fantasies of some Obama supporters - we are in the end days of Clinton's quest for the White House. Within a week or two she will suspend her campaign (after, first, offering another bluff or two about "taking it to the convention" just to pull your beards one or two last times). Expect Obama to be conciliatory. And get ready for a great many Clinton partisans to warm to him considerably and begin to convert to his cause. Some of them will become his most enthusiastic faithful in short time.

Others - personified by the few hundred crazies that got caught on YouTube yesterday protesting the RBC meeting - will not. And far be it from me to try to talk them down off the ledge. I don't mean to be too much of a sadist and be the first to yell "jump!"

But, that said: "Jump! Please!"

Discipline among all players and even fans is a trademark of any winning team. The Obama camp demonstrated that it has cultivated that kind of discipline among its rank-and-file yesterday. The other camp did not.

Al Giordano - Mopping Up: Transitioning Out of the Pre-Season 1 Jun 08

I agree, the winning of hearts and minds presumes them functioning normally.  While there is much merit in conciliation and reconciliation at this stage of the primary, the general election looms.  It is the main event and the challenge which unites us all.  If it doesn't, there is only so much which can be bartered or compromised before the train leaves the station and that time is nigh.

Hillary supporters, your candidate fought a tenacious and competent campaign once she took control of it.  She is to be admired and respected.  But to try and promote faux issues on her behalf, or to extend them beyond their shelf-life and into the general election out of pique or ill-will is simply intolerable.

There are many Obama supporters willing to extend the olive branch and welcome the many loyal, well-spoken Hillary backers to join us in defeating McCain in November, as we surely will.  Many of the staff of her campaign who fought so tenaciously in her cause will no doubt be joining us.  To those in crisis, we will take the time and energy to talk you down off the ledge but if you insist on staying there and hurling insults at the rest of us or regale us with disruptive schemes or arguments with which you would attempt to squander this opportunity or thwart our aspirations you should perhaps reconsider.

There are only two ways down from the ledge and we will help you take the more comfortable route, but this is a busy time for us so tarry not.  If, on the other hand, you are determined to jump you are on your own and you may as well go now and be done with it.

Update: To be perfectly clear this is not a criticism of Hillary supporters in general, far from it, but is a response to the few who promote ongoing, and counter-productive, angst here over voting metrics when the RBC has already ruled, continue attacks on Senator Obama when it is increasingly clear he is the presumptive nominee and declare tacit or overt support for McCain on a progressive Democratic blog during an election year.

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Foreign Policy as a National Priority

A candidate supporter diary for MyDD

Of all the issues facing Americans in this crucial national election none is more compelling than providing a remedy to our international relations and re-framing the debate on 'national security.'  Arguably our present discussion of foreign policy fails to take into account the challenge it presents to our long-term prosperity.  One seldom sees the story presented in the US media but the challenges facing the US in trade, specifically in the competition for energy resources and markets in a rapidly changing global economy, are going to have an enormous impact on our prosperity in coming decades.  And if your priority issues are along the lines of health care reform or other important domestic social initiatives it is perhaps worth considering that these are going to be advanced most reliably or, alternatively, constrained by our performance on this one overriding issue.

It's not just the trillion dollars we have spent on basically nothing in Iraq over the last few years, that is just the tip of the iceberg.  It is the loss to US business of energy related profits and the lost opportunities this foreign policy has created in the reshaping of the global energy economy, for example, as a consequence.  The nascent North-South corridor is a potential threat, an economic shift that would see the bulk of the Gulf's energy moving overland through Russian pipelines to Europe and, possibly, China, with gas and oil moving into these growing markets potentially generating nil profit to US corporations and forcing the US into an increasingly competitive negotiation for these dwindling resources.  Health care and other social reforms, not to mention the enormous investment we will need to make in re-engineering our infrastructure for alternative and green energy are vital issues.  But if there is an erosion of our national prosperity which pays for these programs we will be unable to achieve them.  Just look at the price of fuel today and consider the impact that has on every aspect of our economy, it is money that could be well-spent elsewhere.  

One may debate whether our military and naval investment in Iraq, and the Near East generally, has improved our national security, arguably it hasn't but that's not the point.  Clearly from the perspective of the Gulf states the security situation in their region has been de-stabilised and they are considering looking elsewhere for the kind of guarantees which have seen US protection of supertanker trade routes as the status quo for a generation.  Real 'security' is not having two aircraft-carrier groups in the Persian Gulf but rather not requiring any there in the first place.

Consider, for example, the Russian response to increased tensions over Iran last year, at a time when our attention was directed to an imminent pre-emptive strike on a populous and sovereign nation in the context of our narrative of the 'global war on terror' and security concerns regarding Israel.  Putin, possessing a soul or not, didn't miss the opportunity, travelling to Tehran and crafting the beginnings of a diplomatic and economic agreement in a face-to-face meeting with Khomenei under the aegis of a trans-Caspian accord.  Not to mention stalemating US military activities in the region with the signing of the Declaration:


The declaration signed at the end of the summit covers a wide range of subjects in its 25 articles. The document virtually binds the littoral states into a non-aggression commitment, warns the outsiders to refrain from using the Caspian region soil for military operations or interfering in any other way, supports the right of Iran to pursue nuclear technology for peaceful purposes...

Tehran Summit Unites Caspian States on Major Issues News Central Asia 17 Oct 07

The outcome?  It seems we've been significantly outmanoeuvred by our old Cold War rival and apparently risk missing the point of the real shifts in regional economics and geopolitics in the global economy.

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Bill, You Say What?

The 'race' issue seemed to get under Bill's skin yesterday:


In a further indication of just how perturbed Bill Clinton has been with this campaign, Bill made the following accusation against the Obama camp on a local Philadelphia radio show yesterday: "I think that they played the race card on me. We now know, from memos from the campaign that they planned to do it along."

It's not entirely clear what "memos" Bill might be referring to. The closest such memo in existence is one the Obama campaign put out a while ago, accusing the Clinton people of playing the race card on various occasions.

After the interview had officially ended, but while his microphone was still on, Bill upped the ante: "I don't think I should take any shit from anybody on that, do you?"

Eric Kleefeld - Bill Clinton: Obama Camp Memos Reveal Plan To Play The Race Card On Me TPM 22 Apr 08


On first impression somebody's just not letting it go.  I thought this probably would get smothered by election result reporting but interesting nonetheless.  Not arguing the point but just noting the exchange, OK?  But today the issue cropped up again, as you imagine it might:


Today in Pittsburgh, Clinton was asked what he meant by saying the Obama campaign was playing the race card on him.

"When did I say that, and to whom did I say that?" Clinton asked, per ABC News' Sarah Amos.

"On WHYY radio yesterday," he was told by an NBC/National Journal reporter.

"No, no, no," Clinton said. "That's not what I said. You always follow me around and play these little games, and I'm not going to play your games today. This is a day about election day. Go back and see what the question was, and what my answer was. You have mischaracterized it to get another cheap story to divert the American people from the real urgent issues before us, and I choose not to play your game today. Have a nice day."

Huh?

That's exactly what he said.

"I said what I said," Clinton said. "You can go back and look at the interview and if you will be real honest you will also report what the question was and what the answer was.  But I'm not helping you."

Jake Tapper - Revisionism In Record Time ABC 22 Apr 08

If there's anything I've learned from a close following of the rhetoric in this election cycle it's to expect a certain Orwellian artistic freedom in the spin of surrogates and their subsequent explanations of egregious characterisations of their opponents or the truth.  But doesn't this threaten to set a new gold standard for outright denial or revisionism?  Or maybe even draw aside the curtain and show us the mere mortal who is furiously working the controls behind the scenes?  I look forward with delicious anticipation to the creative writing challenge this presents to Hillary supporters.  Go for it and best of luck to you all.

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Obama Breaking Away Nationally

With everyone's undivided attention on the upcoming contest in Pennsylvania it may be worth taking a look at the 'useless' national polling as an arguably significant trend is emerging in April, a difficult month for Obama, and one in which there has been no momentum changing electoral activity.  Obama is breaking away.  The stunning Newsweek poll which gave Obama a 54%-35% lead was greeted with scepticism but it may not be as much of an 'outlier' as it appeared at first glance:


A new Newsweek poll gives Barack Obama a 54%-35% lead over Hillary Clinton among Democratic voters (story here, detailed results here, and thanks to Newsweek and their pollster, Princeton Survey Research Associates International, for a full and complete disclosure of the details of their survey. A model others should be encouraged to follow.)

The Newsweek poll raised a few eyebrows for its 19 point Obama lead, considerably more than other recent polls, and beyond the 10.4 point Obama lead in our trend estimator. However, a closer look at recent data shows that Newsweek is not far from other recent data. Newsweek is the 6th poll in April with Obama at or above 50%, while five April polls put him below 50%. With Clinton, Newsweek is the 4th April poll putting her at or below 40%, while eight polls have her above 40%. So Newsweek shows a larger Obama lead than others, but it is not as far out of line as may first appear.

[...]

All that said, our trend estimate for the race puts Obama at 50.2% and Clinton at 39.8%, a significant gain for Obama during the month of April. Since late March, Clinton has suffered a somewhat greater downward slope while Obama's gains have been a bit more shallow, implying a slight gain among undecided voters.

Charles Franklin - National Dem Trends, Newsweek Poll Pollster 19 Apr 08

While our attention has been focussed on the erratic Gallup Daily Tracking poll recently the far less sensitive Pollster national analysis shows Obama with a growing 9% national lead and an apparent trend sharply away from the declining results for Hillary.  And while the Newsweek poll showed these results in stark relief there is every indication that this trend is supported by other recent national polling.  The ABC/Washington Post poll of 13 April gave Obama a 10% margin and the Reuters/Zogby poll of the same date 13%.

I've been looking for a trend lately which I expect to see emerge soon, impatience with the Hillary campaign's unwillingness to bring the primary to a conclusion in the interests of party unity and Democratic prospects in the general election and I am wondering if this is affecting these recent results.  If so this may soon become a factor in upcoming primaries as well.  In any case it would seem, based on this national trend, that the 'buyer's remorse' argument we have heard about from time to time is without substance.

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The Democratic Base and How We Will Win

There has been a lot of discussion lately on the partisan divisions in the party as a consequence of the lengthy nomination contest and what the prospects are for a Democratic victory in November.  Consider this:


Today's Democratic electorate is very different from the Democratic electorate of the 1970s and 1980s -- it is almost as solidly liberal as the Republican electorate is solidly conservative. Four years ago John Kerry, a very liberal Democrat running against an incumbent Republican president in a time of war received almost 90 percent of the vote among Democratic identifiers. This November, barring a major disaster at the Democratic convention, it is highly unlikely that many Democratic voters will cross party lines to vote for John McCain. It is equally unlikely that many Republican voters will cross party lines to vote for Barack Obama or Hillary Clinton.

Alan I. Abramowitz - Will Dissapointed Dems Vote for McCain? Center for Politics 17 Apr 08

The basic trend in the party since 1972 has been to the left and this trend has continued through the Clinton administration and the candidacies of Gore and Kerry, significantly changing the electoral landscape from what it was in 1992:

Why have Democrats been much more loyal to their party's presidential candidates in recent elections? It's not just that the Democratic candidates have been more appealing -- it's also a result of an ideological realignment that has taken place within the American electorate. As the data displayed in Figure 2 show, since the 1970s Democratic identifiers have been trending to the left. During the seventies, almost a third of all conservative voters identified with the Democratic Party. By the first decade of the 21st century, only about one-seventh of conservative voters identified with the Democrats. Meanwhile, Democratic identification remained stable at about 60 percent among moderate voters and rose from 84 percent to 90 percent among liberal voters.

The ideological realignment of the American electorate since the 1970s is largely responsible for the dramatic increase in loyalty among Democratic voters (It almost certainly goes back further but the NES surveys did not include an ideology question before 1972). During the seventies and eighties, there were large numbers of conservative "Nixon Democrats" and "Reagan Democrats" who were willing to cross party lines to vote for Republican presidential candidates. Today, however, there are relatively few of these conservative Democrats left.

Alan I. Abramowitz - Will Dissapointed Dems Vote for McCain? Center for Politics 17 Apr 08

What are the implications of this demographic shift for a 21st century Democratic presidential candidate and which campaign is strategically best positioned to succeed in this current environment?

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NAFTA Again

So a candidate surrogate goes to the Canadians and assures them that the anti-NAFTA rhetoric of their candidate is mere electoral posturing and not to be taken seriously.  Sound familiar?  Goolsbee?  Not this time:


At Toronto's Empire Club of Canada this week, two former US ambassadors to Canada -- one Democrat and one Republican -- debated how concerned Canadians should be that the Democratic candidates are serious about re-negotiating NAFTA.

It was the Democrat, James Blanchard, who told Canadians not to worry, according to Canadian press accounts.

Blanchard, former Governor of Michigan, is a Michigan state co-chair of Sen. Hillary Clinton's campaign, one of her major "HillRaiser" fundraisers, and served as US Ambassador to Canada during the administration of former President Bill Clinton.

Hillary Clinton has pledged to voters that she will force Canada to re-negotiate the deal or the US will opt out of it.

"I've said that I will renegotiate NAFTA, so obviously we'd have to say to Canada and Mexico that that's exactly what we're going to do," Clinton said during a recent debate. "We will opt out of NAFTA unless we renegotiate it."

But Blanchard seemed to pooh-pooh that bold statement, telling attendees that Democrats are more concerned about China and Mexico than they are Canada.

''Their concern is job loss or unfairness in dealing with countries that have low wage and labor standards and low environmental standards,'' Blanchard said, according to the Canadian Press. ''I have not seen anything that would constitute a threat to trade with Canada."

The story said that Blanchard this week "played down her antipathy toward the free-trade deal, saying she has visited Canada many times and understands the country well."

Jake Tapper - In Canada, Clinton Co-Chair/Fundraiser Downplays Candidate's NAFTA Rhetoric ABC 18 Apr 08

Ironic, isn't it?  But this is not a leaked memo by the conservative Canadian government, rather a public discussion.  Coming after the Penn and Bill Clinton associations with Colombia, not to mention the enormous fuss over Goolsbee on ambiguous evidence during the Ohio campaign where she made it a major campaign issue, this seems somewhat embarrassing for Hillary's campaign.  Yet hardly surprising.  Who is this Blanchard anyhow?:


When Blanchard resigned as Bill Clinton's ambassador to Canada, the Montreal Gazette reported that he "helped pave the way for the so-called "concessions" on labor and environmental issues that gave Prime Minister Chretien a face-saving excuse for dropping his opposition to NAFTA."

Blanchard eventually became a lobbyist, and has represented Bristol-Myers Squibb, Cisco Systems, and Qualcomm. As a HillRaiser he has committed to raising at least $250,000 for Clinton's campaign.

Jake Tapper - In Canada, Clinton Co-Chair/Fundraiser Downplays Candidate's NAFTA Rhetoric ABC 18 Apr 08

Ok, it's cool, he's one of those 'real American' lobbyists, right?  I've got to admit I have mixed feelings over both campaign's rhetoric vs reality in their respective pitches on free-trade but this certainly seems to be pushing the bounds of our credulity, or gullibility, just a wee bit too far. I wonder how they are going to spin this? Think they'll let Mark Penn have a say on the subject?

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Dean on superdelegates: Let's Get It Over With

Well, if you were wondering what the impact of last night's debate might be you might not need to wait until next Tuesday, it made a considerable impression on DNC Chairman Howard Dean:


(CNN)-- An increasingly firm Howard Dean told CNN again Thursday that he needs superdelegates to say who they're for - and "I need them to say who they're for starting now."

"We cannot give up two or three months of active campaigning and healing time," the Democratic National Committee Chairman told CNN's Wolf Blitzer. "We've got to know who our nominee is."

Emily Sherman - Dean: I need a decision 'now' CNN 17 Apr 08

Given that Dean had previously called for a result by 1 July it seems that the disastrous outcome for the Democratic nominee, whomever it will be, from last night's debate has concentrated his mind, at least, on the need to bring this to a swift conclusion.  'Fierce urgency of now,' anybody?

Say what you will from a partisan perspective that debate did not polish any of our candidate's silver and it is pretty clear that the 'kitchen sink' strategy has become de rigour for this stage of the contest.

Is Dean right?  Is it time for the Democratic party to stop sitting on it's collective hands and make a choice?  Sure the races in Pennsylvania, North Carolina and Indiana will be compelling and important but I tend to agree we need to bring this thing to a conclusion at some point soon.  I'm guessing I am not alone in that belief.

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