# Bill Clinton

How Grassley, Ernst approached debt ceiling under different presidents

The United States avoided a doomsday scenario for the economy this week, when both chambers of Congress approved a deal to prevent a default on the country’s debts in exchange for future spending cuts. Iowa’s entire Congressional delegation supported the legislation, marking the first time in decades that every member of the U.S. House and Senate from this state had voted to raise or suspend the debt ceiling.

The vote was also noteworthy for Senators Chuck Grassley and Joni Ernst, who were part of the 63-36 majority that sent the bill to President Joe Biden. Bleeding Heartland’s review of 45 years of Congressional records showed Grassley had backed a debt ceiling bill under a Democratic president only once, and Ernst had never done so.

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Sister Souljah Redux

Ira Lacher: We need Joe Biden to speak before Donald J. Trump succeeds in making “law and order” the number 1 issue of the 2020 election. -promoted by Laura Belin

If there ever were a need for a Sister Souljah moment, it’s now.

In 1992, Bill Clinton, locked in a  tight race with President George H. W. Bush, blasted the rapper known as Sister Souljah for urging blacks to kill whites in retaliation for the death of Rodney King at the hands of Los Angeles police, who were acquitted of any crime. Speaking to the Reverend Jesse Jackson’s Rainbow Coalition, the Democratic nominee from Arkansas repudiated her comments as incendiary.

“If you took the words ‘white’ and ‘black,’ and you reversed them, you might think David Duke was giving that speech,” Clinton told the group, referring to the then-leader of the Ku Klux Klan.

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Does a presidential nominee's choice of running mate matter?

Dan Guild sees Joe Biden’s choice as influenced by Bill Clinton’s counter-intuitive but “phenomenally successful” pick for vice president. -promoted by Laura Belin

After weeks of speculation, Joe Biden has made his choice: Kamala Harris. He wasn’t late. As the table below shows, his announcement was actually a little earlier than most by a day or two.

Will it matter? Political scientists have studied the matter and usually concluded no. I think the answer is more nuanced than that.

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Deaths of despair in Clinton, Oelwein, and elsewhere

John Whiston reflects on several books about industrial decline and the social dislocation that has accompanied it. -promoted by Laura Belin

A friend emailed me the other day, a friend I worked with forty years ago at a plywood mill in Bonner, Montana. We pulled veneer on the green chain, very heavy repetitive work. He asked me to talk with his 30-something son, who might be having some legal problems. So, I spent about an hour in conversation with this young man.

His was familiar story, very much what I’d heard as a lawyer in Iowa for 25 years. I learned he had graduated high school with few skills. While his father and grandfather had been able to go to work at the Bonner mill with good wages, medical insurance, a pension, and a strong union, the mill had closed. He then described a few experiences that seemed to fit in a small way with a whole constellation of symptoms that I had seen in my working-class clients: unemployment, underemployment, injuries, illness, disability, substance abuse, terrible credit, family issues, run-ins with the law.

I now suspect that the underlying problem is a profound despair. Granted, not every working-class person displays this despair, but it appears in an increasing portion. Their despondency bleeds out into their families and communities and affects us all.

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Throwback Thursday: Chuck Grassley on Bill Clinton's impeachment trial

“We are here because the President did wrongful acts, and he admits that,” U.S. Senator Chuck Grassley said in February 1999, when explaining his votes to remove President Bill Clinton from office.

It’s a far cry from the statements he released in September, accusing U.S. House Democrats of “searching for any reason to impeach President Trump since his inauguration because they couldn’t accept the results of the 2016 election.”

With prospects growing that the Democratic-controlled House will vote out articles of impeachment against Donald Trump, it’s worth revisiting in detail how Grassley approached the Senate’s last impeachment trial.

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Steve King implies Clintons should be executed

Ed Fallon discusses yet another offensive meme posted on Steve King’s Facebook page. -promoted by Laura Belin

I’m not prone to cliches, but I can’t get this one off my mind: You can’t teach an old dog a new trick. Witness hapless U.S. Representative Steve King (R-Eighteenth Century), who despite public chastisement by fellow House members for his comments in support of white supremacy, was again unable to conceal his propensity to think outside the sanity box.

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Bill Clinton's biggest "accomplishment"

Editor’s note from Laura Belin: Conservative dominance of talk radio is a major problem, and likely has contributed to declining Democratic performance in mid-sized cities and rural areas since the mid-1990s.

Do you realize how embarrassingly rare it is for a progressive voice to be heard on the so-called “public” airwaves? Unless I’ve missed something (and I hope I have), the Fallon Forum is the only progressive political talk show on commercial radio anywhere in Iowa.

That’s not only sad and wrong, it’s dangerous. Our airwaves have been sold off to a shrinking handful of corporate giants. As a result, traditional radio listeners are inundated 24-7 with a steady diet of Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, Glenn Beck, and their ilk.

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As criminal probes advanced, Whitaker met with Trump, Kushner

Acting Attorney General Matt Whitaker met with President Donald Trump and the president’s son-in-law Jared Kushner on the morning of December 7, hours before federal prosecutors released three briefs recounting crimes and misconduct by Trump’s former campaign manager Paul Manafort and personal attorney Michael Cohen.

Cameron Joseph of Talking Points Memo saw Kushner and Whitaker boarding Marine One, the helicopter carrying the president, around 9:00 am. The meeting was improper because Whitaker will continue to oversee special counsel Robert Mueller for at least another month.

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Democratic gubernatorial candidates should go back to the future

Jeff Cox sees one gubernatorial contender best positioned to help Democrats become the majority party again. Bleeding Heartland welcomes guest posts advocating for candidates in competitive Democratic primaries. Please read these guidelines before writing. -promoted by desmoinesdem

There is only one word to use when surveying the damage the Republicans are doing to Iowa and America: depressing. We need to keep our eye on the ball, though, and avoid being diverted into competitive name-calling with Republicans. We need to elect Democrats until we regain a majority at every level of government. In the present crisis, any Democratic victory is a win, no matter how awful the Democrat.

In addition to issuing an “all hands on deck” call to elect Democrats, we should also have a discussion about how we got into this mess of being a minority party at every level of government. We could do worse than look back to a period of history when Democrats were the natural party of government, the half century beginning in 1932.

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Can anything make Trump popular?

Guest author Dan Guild has closely followed American presidential polling and elections for decades. -promoted by desmoinesdem

Consider three quotes: “It’s the economy, stupid”–James Carville, 1992

“Events dear boy, events”–Attributed to British Prime Minister Harold Macmillan

“That the prince must consider, as has been in part said before, how to avoid those things which will make him hated or contemptibleIt makes him hated above all things, as I have said, to be rapacious, and to be a violator of the property and women of his subjects, from both of which he must abstain.”–Machiavelli, The Prince, 1513

I cannot prove Machiavelli had Donald Trump in mind when he wrote those words 500 years ago. But the polling is consistent (we will explore it in a later post) – after his first year Trump is one of the most hated politicians in American history.

This was true on election day in 2016, when only 38 percent had a favorable impression of him, the lowest rating any major presidential candidate has received since exit polling began. He did not get the typical boost most presidents get after being elected. His numbers have not improved despite what by some indications is a good economy. In fact, about 75 percent of polls taken since May 2017 find his approval rating within 3 points of his favorable rating in the election day exit.

So the question must be asked: can anything change the public’s impression of Donald Trump?

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"Make America America again": photos, highlights from Iowa Democrats' fall gala

Everyone could have guessed Alec Baldwin would get Iowa Democrats laughing with jokes at President Donald Trump’s expense.

But who would have predicted the serious part of the actor’s speech would evoke an even stronger response from the crowd?

Follow me after the jump for audio and highlights from Baldwin’s remarks and those of the seven Democratic candidates for governor, along with Stefanie Running‘s photographs from a memorable evening in Des Moines.

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Thoughts on Hillary Clinton ruling out another presidential campaign

“I am done with being a candidate,” Hillary Clinton told CBS “Sunday Morning” anchor Jane Pauley in an interview aired on September 10. “But I am not done with politics because I literally believe that our country’s future is at stake,” she added.

The unequivocal statement is welcome, even though I don’t know any admirer of Clinton who thought she was planning another presidential bid.

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The Higher Moral Ground

An important message from Gary Kroeger, as the actions of a small minority of protesters in Berkeley are receiving national attention. -promoted by desmoinesdem

What is the greatest threat to our political system? Oligarchic control? Elections manipulated by wealth? Economic disparity?

Those are all issues in crisis, but they are results of inattention to foundational principles. The root cause of our dysfunction is: Hypocrisy.

Until we discover the enlightenment that allows us to be honest; that mediates the deflection of accountability; we will continue on a course of political divides that will deepen, obscure reality and remove us from responsibility.

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Failing Iowa’s Children: The shortcomings of welfare reform and the path forward

Austin Frerick, an Iowa native and economist who has worked at the Institute for Research on Poverty and the Congressional Research Service, examines state assistance to poor children 20 years after federal welfare reform. -promoted by desmoinesdem

Nine-year-old Kaylie moved into a cheap motel after her mother got evicted. They have no refrigerator. Kaylie retrieves ice from the ice machine and fills the sink with it to keep the milk cold. When they have milk. Kaylie is just one of the approximately 110,000 Iowa children living in poverty, up 44 percent since 2000. Frontline profiled Kaylie and several other poor Iowa children in the acclaimed episode “Poor Kids.”

This year marks the 20th anniversary of President Clinton’s Welfare Reform. Prior to the reform, any poor mother and child in this country received a monthly subsistence check. This law changed that. It destroyed that safety net. It removed this promise and left states free to almost eliminate welfare. Politicians promised innovation by devolving power to states on the premise that they would come up with new ways address poverty but that never happened (Iowa’s last innovation meeting occurred in 1996). They promised it would get poor mothers back to work, but the programs proved ineffective (Iowa allocates less than 6% of funding to job assistance).

Most welfare dollars don’t even go directly to poor children anymore. Most states, including Iowa, use this money to supplement funding elsewhere. Twenty years later, there are now more poor kids receiving less support. We have let the bottom fall even further for our most vulnerable.

Iowa should abandon its current failed welfare system and instead enact a Social Security program for all of its children. This idea builds on the simple notion that parents know what is best for their children, and it would remove layers of ineffective bureaucracy.

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Weekend open thread: Top moments from the DNC in Philadelphia

Last weekend, when internal Democratic National Committee correspondence published by Wikileaks was all over the media, and Hillary Clinton inexplicably reacted to the scandal by giving outgoing DNC Chair Debbie Wasserman-Schultz an honorary role in her campaign, I feared the worst. Would Democrats fail to clear the very low bar Republicans set at their “disastrous” convention in Cleveland?

The DNC turned out to be the best I’ve ever seen, and I’m not alone in that assessment. I’ll be surprised if Clinton doesn’t get a substantial boost in the next few days’ polling. Who knows whether this year’s race will conform to trends Dan Guild described in his deep dive into the history of convention bounces. But I’m with Steven Mazie: if Clinton loses to Trump in November, it won’t be because of anything that happened in Philadelphia.

In a week with many good speeches, First Lady Michelle Obama’s was the highlight for me. So well-crafted, so well-delivered. The full video is after the jump, along with some other notable prime-time DNC appearances.

This is an open thread, so all topics are welcome. But please share your own favorite moments from the DNC.

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Mother, family are themes of Hillary Clinton's first tv ads in Iowa

Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign started running two 60-second television commercials today in Iowa and New Hampshire. An August 2 press release noted,

These ads are part of an initial five-week, approximately $1 million ad buy in each state plus additional digital advertising. In New Hampshire, the ads will run statewide – in the Boston/Manchester market and in the Burlington market. In Iowa, the ads will air in the state’s two largest media markets – Des Moines and Cedar Rapids. As of today, Republican candidates and their SuperPACS have spent or reserved $34 million in air time in the four early primary states.

I enclose below the videos for “Dorothy” and “Family Strong,” with my annotated transcripts.

The commercials are strong, but I have to say: if you can afford to spend $2 million on tv ads in August (and Clinton can, having raised $47,549,799.64 for her campaign between April 1 and June 30), then you should have paid your full-time summer interns–sorry, “fellows.”

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Mid-week open thread: Hillary's e-mails edition

Let’s kick off this open thread with a few links on the Hillary Clinton e-mail saga, which is obsessing the political media. Mother Jones posted the full transcript from Clinton’s press conference yesterday. Excerpts are after the jump. Maggie Haberman posted a good analysis in the New York Times. David Corn’s post on “The Return of the Clinton Media Persecution Complex” was excellent. It’s not encouraging to see the Clintons back in bunker mode against journalists. And while some critics may be exaggerating the significance of this story,

She was a Cabinet official. She had a duty to ensure that her records-which belong to the public, not her-would be controlled by the department, not by her private aides who operate her private server. Moreover, the day she entered Foggy Bottom, she was a potential future presidential contender. […]

So it doesn’t matter what Colin Powell or Condi Rice did with their emails. Put aside Karl Rove’s use of a private GOP party email account when he was a White House official. Hillary Clinton screwed up.

Speaking of screw-ups, the Associated Press ran with a related story that turned out to be false, then covered their tracks by substantially changing the content without issuing an explicit correction. Bad form.

I reject the premise that anything happening in March 2015 will be decisive in November 2016. To my mind, this scandal will only reinforce existing views about the Democratic front-runner. If you’ve always thought Bill and Hillary Clinton are untrustworthy, you have new fodder for that view. And if you’ve always thought Republicans and/or the media go too far in attacking the Clintons, you’ve got more ammunition now. Still, I wish Clinton had used a government e-mail for her official duties, and I wish she had responded to questions on this topic sooner.

What’s on your mind this week, Bleeding Heartland readers?

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Iowa caucus hopefuls eager to serve as campaign surrogates

With the 2016 caucuses only a bit more than a year away, many potential presidential candidates have been paying their dues in Iowa this fall. On the Democratic side, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is headlining events for Bruce Braley in Cedar Rapids and Davenport on Wednesday, while her husband, President Bill Clinton, will campaign with Braley in Des Moines and Waterloo this Saturday. Vice President Joe Biden was in Davenport today with Braley and Representative Dave Loebsack.

Others who might run for president (if Hillary Clinton opts out) have been here lately too. Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts got large crowds of Democrats going in Iowa City and Des Moines last weekend. This past Saturday, Senator Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota gave the keynote speech at the Iowa Democratic Party’s annual Jefferson-Jackson Dinner. Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley recently visited Iowa for the fourth time since June, headlining events for Braley, Loebsack, gubernatorial nominee Jack Hatch, and Steve Siegel, the Democratic candidate in Iowa Senate district 41.

On the Republican side, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie did an event for Representative Steve King before headlining Governor Terry Branstad’s “birthday” bash in Des Moines on Saturday. (King helped Christie out of a jam once.) The New Jersey governor will be back later this week to campaign with Branstad, Senate nominee Joni Ernst, and IA-02 nominee Mariannette Miller-Meeks in Burlington. Last week, Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky came to Cedar Falls for an event with IA-01 GOP nominee Rod Blum, and Texas Governor Rick Perry made stops in Des Moines and the Cedar Rapids area for attorney general nominee Adam Gregg, Blum, and Ernst. Former Senator Rick Santorum did an event for King last week too, and Donald Trump did earlier in October. Senator Marco Rubio is coming back to eastern Iowa tomorrow to raise money for the Scott County Republicans and for Blum.

I’ve heard that Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal and former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee have recorded radio ads for Sam Clovis, the social conservative favorite who is running for state treasurer. However, I haven’t heard those spots on the radio yet. Speaking of social conservative heroes, Dr. Ben Carson (possibly the new “flavor of the month” for Iowa Republicans) is slated to keynote the FAMiLY Leader’s fall fundraiser on November 22.

Any comments about the next presidential race in Iowa are welcome in this thread. P.S. Imagine if any Democratic candidate or elected official followed Branstad’s lead and moved his “birthday party” up from November 17 to October 25 for political reasons. There would be a chorus of outrage from pundits: Phony! Not acting like a real Iowan!  

Weekend open thread: Final Harkin Steak Fry edition

What’s on your mind this weekend, Bleeding Heartland readers? This is an open thread.

The weather is perfect in Indianola this afternoon for the roughly 5,000 people expected to attend Senator Tom Harkin’s final “Steak Fry” event. At least 200 journalists will be on hand, mostly to see Hillary Clinton’s first appearance in Iowa since the 2008 caucuses. If you see a lot of “Hillary doesn’t appear to have much of an Iowa problem” stories tonight and tomorrow, remember that you heard it here first, and repeatedly.

I stand by my prediction that Hillary Clinton will face only token Democratic opposition in Iowa and elsewhere if she runs for president again. But in case she doesn’t run, 2012 Harkin Steak Fry headliner Martin O’Malley is building up a lot of goodwill among Iowa Democrats. In addition to raising money for key Iowa Senate candidates this summer, the Maryland governor’s political action committee is funding staffers for the Iowa Democratic Party’s coordinated campaign, gubernatorial nominee Jack Hatch, and secretary of state candidate Brad Anderson. I still don’t see O’Malley running against Clinton in any scenario.

President Bill Clinton will speak today as well. That’s got to be a tough act to follow. No one can get a crowd of Democrats going like he can. I’ll update this post later with highlights from the event and news coverage. I hope other Bleeding Heartland readers will share their impressions. C-SPAN will carry the main speeches, starting at 2:00 pm. That will be on channel 95 in the Des Moines area.

Rest in peace, Jim Jeffords

Former U.S. Senator Jim Jeffords of Vermont passed away today at the age of 80. When he was first elected to Congress in 1974, New England Republicans were well represented in Washington, DC, and were more progressive than many southern Democrats in the Capitol. By the time he retired in 2006, only a few Congressional Republicans hailed from states to the north and east of New York.

Jeffords will be most remembered for becoming an independent in May 2001, shifting control of the Senate to Democrats just a few months into George W. Bush’s presidency. Emily Langer notes in her Washington Post obituary that Jeffords had been out of step with his party on many occasions before then.

In 1981, while serving in the House, he was the only Republican to oppose President Ronald Reagan’s tax cuts. Later, as a member of the Senate, Mr. Jeffords opposed President George H.W. Bush’s nomination of Clarence Thomas to the U.S. Supreme Court and publicly agonized before supporting the president on the invasion of Iraq during the 1991 Persian Gulf War.

During the Democratic administration of President Bill Clinton, Mr. Jeffords broke with his party by backing the president’s health-care plan and voting against the articles of impeachment brought against him in connection with the Monica Lewinsky affair.

Even so, leaving the GOP caucus was a difficult choice for Jeffords. You can watch his May 24, 2001 speech here or read the transcript at the Burlington Free Press website. Iowa’s senior Senator Chuck Grassley was among the GOP colleagues most hurt by Jeffords’ defection. Speaking to reporters on that day in 2001, Jeffords said his meeting with Republican senators had been

the most emotional time that I have ever had in my life, with my closest friends urging me not to do what I was going to do, because it affected their lives, and very substantially. I know, for instance, the chairman of the finance committee has dreamed all his life of being chairman. He is chairman about a couple of weeks, and now he will be no longer the chairman. All the way down the line, I could see the anguish and the disappointment as I talked.

So many elected officials have remained loyal to parties that no longer represent their views. It’s hard to redefine one’s political identity and jeopardize longtime relationships. Jeffords stands out because he took a painful step for principles he believed in.

Incidentally, Grassley focused on the policy implications of Jeffords’ switch, not his personal loss of power. As it happens, he didn’t have to wait long for another chance to chair the Senate Finance Committee, from January 2003 through December 2006.

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Hillary and Bill Clinton to headline the final Harkin Steak Fry

Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and President Bill Clinton will be the star guests at Senator Tom Harkin’s final steak fry on September 14 at the Indianola Balloon Field. Doors open at 12:30 pm, event runs from 1-4. Traffic can be slow on the highway leading to the balloon field, so my advice is to allow extra time.

All of Iowa’s Democratic candidates for federal and statewide office typically speak at the steak fry, but the big crowds will be there to see Hillary Clinton in her first Iowa appearance since the January 2008 caucuses. While she’s in central Iowa, I would not be surprised to see her do an event for Staci Appel, Democratic nominee in the third Congressional district. Then State Senator Appel appeared at numerous events for for Hillary during 2007.

My opinion hasn’t changed regarding Clinton and the 2016 Iowa caucuses: if she runs for president again, she wins here. Vice President Joe Biden and everyone else are far behind in every Iowa poll I’ve seen. Other presidential hopefuls are waiting in the wings, in case Clinton decides against running, but are in no position to challenge her for the nomination.

George W. Bush legacy discussion thread

President Barack Obama and four former presidents were in Dallas this morning for the dedication of George W. Bush’s presidential library and museum. Highlights from the speeches are here and here.

The Washington Post published this timeline of Bush’s eight years in office. Asawin Suebsaeng listed eight things you won’t find at Bush’s presidential library. Dylan Matthews summed up Bush’s presidency in 24 charts.

In my opinion Bush was one of the very worst presidents in U.S. history. I wish he had stayed out of politics, either by becoming a painter many years ago or being named Major League Baseball commissioner in the early 1990s. Although his approval rating is higher now than it’s been in years, I don’t believe future historians will look favorably on him. His administration had “the worst track record for job creation since the government began keeping records.” We’ll be paying for his unaffordable tax cuts and the ongoing costs of the war in Iraq for decades to come.

But in an effort to say at least one positive thing to mark today’s event, I will give Bush credit for supporting the DREAM Act in Texas and at the federal level. Share your own thoughts about “43” in this thread.

UPDATE: George W. Bush and his mother disagree on whether former Florida Governor Jeb Bush should run for president.

Five takes on Asian Americans trending Democratic

President Barack Obama’s 50-point edge over Mitt Romney among Asian American voters was one of the most surprising election results for me. Growing up during the 1980s, it seemed like all of my Asian American friends’ parents were Republicans. Bill Clinton received an estimated 31 percent of the Asian American vote in 1992, compared to 62 percent for Obama in 2008 and 73 percent for Obama this year.

Since the election, I’ve read several attempts to explain this trend. The most interesting links are after the jump.

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IA-04: Vilsack's case and King's closing arguments

The campaign in Iowa’s fourth Congressional district set records for fundraising by a U.S. House incumbent and challenger in Iowa and attracted nearly $5 million in spending by outside groups. For weeks, television stations around the district have been saturated with ads for and against five-term Representative Steve King and Democratic challenger Christie Vilsack.

A final news roundup on IA-04 is after the jump, including Vilsack’s key campaign themes and King’s closing message to voters.  

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New thread on the presidential race in Iowa (updated)

Four new Iowa polls were released during the past 24 hours, and both Barack Obama’s and Mitt Romney’s campaigns have scheduled multiple rallies in Iowa this week. Follow me after the jump for clips on those stories and related news.

Any comments about the presidential race are welcome in this thread.

UPDATE: Added another poll below and excerpts from a new Romney campaign memo on Iowa.

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IA-01: Dueling tv ads for NRCC, Braley, Lange (updated)

The air war in Iowa’s first Congressional district is fully engaged, with four new television commercials in the last week alone. Three-term Democratic incumbent Bruce Braley started running a spot about veterans last week and went up on the air yesterday with a response to a new ad about Medicare, paid for by the National Republican Congressional Committee. Last week Republican challenger Ben Lange launched his second tv spot, which depicts the national debt as unfair to the next generation.

More details on the new commercials, including videos and transcripts, are after the jump. Bleeding Heartland covered Braley’s opening tv spot here and Lange’s here.  

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New Democratic National Convention thread: Bill Clinton edition (updated)

President Bill Clinton is firing up the Democratic crowd in Charlotte. You can’t even tell he is using a teleprompter, in contrast to Massachusetts Senate candidate Elizabeth Warren speech a bit earlier this evening. He is talking about President Barack Obama rather than about himself, in contrast to last week’s Republican convention speech by New Jersey Governor Chris Christie.

I’ve posted some Clinton-related links after the jump, along with more news about the Iowa delegation. Any comments about the Democratic National Convention or the presidential race are welcome in this thread. UPDATE: Clinton’s speech just ended; he clocked in around 45 minutes. Too long, but well-delivered.

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Democratic National Convention news and discussion thread

The Democratic National Convention opens tonight in Charlotte, North Carolina, with a tightly-packed schedule of speakers. Broadcast television networks will show only the last hour of prime-time speeches: Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley, Congressional candidate Joaquin Castro of Texas, San Antonio Mayor Julian Castro, Elaine Brye (a “military mother with four children serving in different branches of the armed forces”), and First Lady Michelle Obama.

O’Malley and several other possible future Democratic candidates for president are meeting with Iowa’s delegation in Charlotte this week. Details and other convention-related news are after the jump.

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New tv ads running for and against Obama in Iowa

President Barack Obama’s re-election campaign is launching a new television commercial today in Iowa, Virginia, and Ohio. The spot responds to a negative ad by the 501(c)4 group Americans for Prosperity, pivoting to an attack on future Republican nominee Mitt Romney. After the jump I’ve posted video clips and transcripts of those commercials and the latest anti-Obama ad from the 501(c)4 group American Future Fund.

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Iowa delegation unanimously opposes debt ceiling hike

The U.S. House of Representatives failed to approve a presidential request to increase the debt ceiling yesterday. Members rejected a motion to suspend the rules and proceed with that bill by a 318 to 97 vote (roll call). Every House Republican present voted against raising the debt ceiling, including Tom Latham (IA-04) and Steve King (IA-05). Nearly half the Democratic caucus also voted against yesterday’s motion, including Dave Loebsack (IA-02) and Leonard Boswell (IA-03). House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer advised Democratic colleagues to reject what he described as a “political charade” aimed at producing fodder for campaign attack ads. Bruce Braley (IA-01) missed yesterday’s vote to attend a family funeral but released a statement saying he would have opposed raising the debt ceiling. I’ve posted his comments after the jump. Since last November’s election, Braley has consistently been talking like a deficit hawk.

The U.S. hit its current debt ceiling in mid-May. If Congress does not raise the limit by August 2, the federal government will not be able to pay all of its bills. Republican leaders are pushing for major domestic spending cuts as a condition for raising the borrowing limit. Naturally, austerity won’t apply to the military budget, and that’s fine with Boswell, Loebsack, Latham and King.

I believe Democrats are making a mistake by accepting Republican demands for strings attached to the debt ceiling hike. President Bill Clinton refused to make such negotiations part of a deal on raising the borrowing limit in 1995, saying he would not let Congressional Republicans use the occasion to “backdoor their budget proposals.”

King asserted yesterday that repealing the federal health insurance reform law would “save the taxpayers $2.6 trillion” and would be a good start toward finding spending cuts to offset the president’s debt request. I’ve posted his full statement after the jump. At this writing I have not seen official comments on the debt ceiling from Loebsack, Boswell or Latham. If those become available, I will update this post.

UPDATE: Latham’s statements on the debt ceiling are now after the jump.

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Grassley and Harkin split over ending tax breaks for oil companies

A Republican-led filibuster blocked Senate consideration today of a bill that would end “tax breaks for the five largest oil companies: Exxon Mobil, Shell, BP, ConocoPhillips and Chevron.” Click here for more detail on tax breaks that would be eliminated. The 52 to 48 vote in favor of proceeding with the “Close Big Oil Tax Loopholes Act” failed because 60 votes are needed to overcome a filibuster. The roll call shows that Iowa’s Chuck Grassley voted against the motion to proceed, as did all but two Senate Republicans. Tom Harkin voted for considering the bill, as did all but three Democrats.

I’m all for ending oil company subsidies, but this bill was about optics rather than good energy policy. Andrew Restuccia wrote in The Hill,

Democrats’ pledge to continue pushing the bill signals that they view the effort as a winning political issue amid $4-a-gallon gas, soaring oil company profits and growing concern about the deficit. […]

Democrats say the bill would save $21 billion over the course of 10 years, savings that can be used to reduce the deficit at a time of increased belt-tightening.

Those talking points would be more convincing if party leaders had genuinely tried to end oil subsidies when Democrats controlled the U.S. House and had close to 60 votes in the Senate. It also makes no sense to focus this bill on the biggest oil companies, rather than the sector as a whole. Democrats apparently wrote the bill that way because of those companies’ large profits in the first quarter of this year.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid told journalists today that he will press for ending oil companies’ tax breaks as part of legislation on raising the debt ceiling. The U.S. hit its current debt ceiling yesterday and won’t be able to pay all its bills if Congress does not act to raise the ceiling by August 2. I believe President Barack Obama and Congressional Democrats are playing a losing game by making budget negotiations part of a deal on raising the debt ceiling. When it was time to raise the government’s borrowing limit in 1995, President Bill Clinton wisely refused to let Republicans use the occasion to “backdoor their budget proposals.”

Share any relevant thoughts in this thread.

UPDATE: After the jump I’ve added a statement Grassley released on May 17, calling on Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to approve the proposed Keystone XL Canadian pipeline project. Grassley depicts that project as a way for the Obama administration to help reduce the cost of gasoline. But an analysis commissioned by the U.S. Department of Energy earlier this year suggested that building this pipeline might cause oil and therefore gasoline prices to rise in the Midwest. Environmental groups have raised many objections to the Keystone XL project as well.

SECOND UPDATE: I’ve also added below excerpts from a report by the Congressional Research Service on “the extent to which proposed tax changes on the oil industry are likely to affect domestic gasoline prices.” The report briefly explains the five tax breaks that would be repealed under the bill senators filibustered.

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Boswell's opponents are not ready for prime time

Iowa Republicans are deluding themselves if they think Representative Leonard Boswell is highly vulnerable this year. The more I see of the Republican primary campaigns, the less worried I am about holding Iowa’s third Congressional district in the Democratic column.

Four of the seven Republicans running against Boswell have no chance of winning the nomination. Jason Welch hasn’t attended any candidate forums, and I wonder why he went to the trouble of qualifying for the ballot. Pat Bertroche and Scott Batcher are ill-informed sideshows who will be lucky to win 5 percent of the vote. Mark Rees seems to have the firmest grasp of the issues, but there aren’t enough moderate Republicans anymore for someone like Rees to win a primary. Rees could affect the election, because a strong showing for him (10 to 20 percent of the vote) would increase the chance that no candidate receives at least 35 percent in the primary. But whether Republicans pick a winner on June 8 or at a district convention later, Rees will not be Boswell’s general election opponent.

That leaves the Washington establishment candidate Jim Gibbons, State Senator Brad Zaun and tea party favorite Dave Funk. After watching yesterday’s forum featuring six of Boswell’s opponents, Graham Gillette argued that Funk, Gibbons and Zaun “are all capable of putting together a strong general election effort.” After the jump I explain why I disagree.

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Rest in peace, Ed Campbell

Ed Campbell, a legendary figure in the Iowa Democratic Party, died last Thursday and was fondly remembered today during his funeral at St. Anthony’s Catholic Church in Des Moines. I hadn’t realized until I read the obituary in the Des Moines Register that Campbell had been a Republican before going to work for Governor Harold Hughes. In that job, he helped “oversee the establishment of the community colleges” in Iowa. Campbell later worked in Hughes’ Senate office, and managed John Culver’s successful U.S. Senate campaign in 1974. He chaired the Iowa Democratic Party during the late 1970s and early 1980s. Though he never held elective office, he advised many political candidates and took immense pride in his wife Bonnie’s election as Iowa attorney general in 1990. He played a central role in that campaign and in her bid for governor four years later.

Click here to read reflections from Kay Henderson of Radio Iowa, as well as statements released by the Iowa Democratic Party, Governor Chet Culver, Lieutenant Governor Patty Judge, Senator Tom Harkin, and former President Bill Clinton. The Des Moines Register noted Campbell’s influence over “a class of political professionals” in Iowa, including Teresa Vilmain, John Cacciatore and John Frew, who told the Register, “He taught a whole generation of us how to count, that every minute of every day in a campaign counts.”

At the bottom of this Radio Iowa story you can listen to audio clips of eulogies delivered by Monsignor Frank Chiodo, Campbell’s sister Christine Lantis, Iowa First Lady Mari Culver, longtime friends Dan Miller and Ned Chiodo, and President Bill Clinton. Kay Henderson posted a partial transcript of Clinton’s eulogy as well. Many of the speakers shared funny stories about Campbell. Clinton spoke about how fortunate he and Hillary Clinton had been to receive advice and support from Campbell over the years. The former president got some of the biggest laughs of the service during this part of his eulogy:

I know Ed Campbell had a gentle, good, kind side, but he was brilliant at hiding it. I mean, the first time I ever met this guy he leans into me with this big bald head and these sharp features and these piercing eyes.  I actually thought I had run into somebody out of Star Wars. I thought I was being interviewed to see whether I was suitable to go on the next inter-galactic conquest mission.

Ned Chiodo told several stories about Campbell’s kindness and generosity to people in need. He also reminded the audience, “Every single one of you have an Edward story and they’re terrific, but I want to assure you Edward had a story about every one of you. And I took copious notes.”

I didn’t know Campbell well but was fortunate to see him in action while I volunteered for Bonnie Campbell’s gubernatorial campaign in 1994. He was a great story-teller, and I hope he wrote down or recorded his political memories. I wish I could remember the details of his story about attending the funeral of Yugoslav President Josip Broz Tito. Somehow Vice President Walter Mondale, who was representing the U.S. at that event, included Campbell in the American delegation. During the procession Campbell brought up the rear of the U.S. group, which meant he was walking immediately in front of the Soviet delegation led by General Secretary Leonid Brezhnev.

Although complications from cancer eventually killed Campbell, he lived far longer than expected after his lung cancer diagnosis in 1983. His family’s wishes are that in lieu of flowers, donations in his memory may be given to the American Cancer Society or the Iowa Democratic Party.

Bleeding Heartland readers, please share your own memories of Ed Campbell in this thread.

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Presidential rankings: William Henry Harrison was robbed!

Update: Read the comments under my Daily Kos cross-post for lots of good insights. There are also some fascinating comments in Beltway Dem’s thread; for instance, Charles Lemos makes a case for Arthur as one of the great presidents.

Thanks to Beltway Dem’s diary at MyDD, I saw that C-SPAN asked these 65 professional historians or observers of the presidency to rank the 42 presidents on the following criteria:  

   * Public Persuasion

   * Crisis Leadership

   * Economic Management

   * Moral Authority

   * International Relations

   * Administrative Skills

   * Relations with Congress

   * Vision/Setting An Agenda

   * Pursued Equal Justice For All

   * Performance Within Context of Times

Here are the overall scores and rankings. George W. Bush ranked 36th, ahead of Millard Fillmore, Warren G. Harding, William Henry Harrison, Franklin D. Pierce, Andrew Johnson, and James Buchanan. Doesn’t that strike you as unfair to William Henry Harrison? Granted, he didn’t accomplish much in the six weeks he was president before dying of pneumonia. But it’s not as if he turned a record surplus into record deficits or got this country mired in the longest war in U.S. history or anything.

Other notable findings:

Abraham Lincoln ranked first again, as any normal person would expect (even though none of the men who sought to lead the Republican Party named him as the greatest GOP president). Lincoln is even more remarkable when you view his leadership in the context of his times. The three presidents who immediately preceded Lincoln and his successor all ranked in the bottom six overall.

George Washington moved ahead of Franklin Delano Roosevelt this time to finish second. That is a tough call, and I could see it either way. The New Deal changed this country forever, but Washington’s commitment to regular presidential elections and serving only two terms set enormously important precedents.

Theodore Roosevelt and Harry S Truman ranked fourth and fifth, respectively, as they did in the 2000 survey. I’m no professional historian, but that seems high for Truman.

John F. Kennedy moved from eighth place in 2000 to sixth in this survey, putting him just ahead of Thomas Jefferson. They cannot be serious. Kennedy did more for this country as president than Jefferson did?

Dwight D. Eisenhower also moved up from ninth place in the last survey to eighth. Woodrow Wilson dropped from sixth in 2000 to ninth, which probably says something about current academic trends in the International Relations field, but I don’t know what exactly.

Republicans will be pleased that Ronald Reagan and Lyndon Johnson switched places; Reagan moved from eleventh into the top ten, while LBJ dropped down one notch to eleventh.

I have problems with putting JFK ahead of LBJ. I don’t think Kennedy could have gotten such far-reaching civil rights legislation through Congress during that era. The great tragedy of LBJ’s presidency was continuing the Vietnam policy begun by JFK. Johnson had serious doubts about this policy, but he stuck with it, and in doing so he was following the advice of almost all the Kennedy advisers who stayed on for his administration. I do not believe Kennedy would have kept us from deeper involvement in Vietnam, and I don’t think he would have achieved nearly as much on the domestic front.

Speaking of which, ranking Reagan ahead of Johnson seems outlandish. I know Reagan is now a conservative cult hero (they whitewash his tax hikes during in his second term), but can his admirers explain to me which of his policies changed this country forever? Did he make the government smaller in some way? Did he manage the country’s money responsibly?

Look at this list of LBJ’s accomplishments, which Paul Rosenberg compiled at Open Left. (I hope he will forgive me for posting the list after the jump as well.) Can anyone imagine this country without Medicare or Medicaid? Head Start or Food Stamps? The Department of Transportation? Republicans may hate the Corporation for Public Broadcasting and the National Endowments for the Arts and Humanities, but they have been unable to get rid of them. The long list includes consumer protection and environmental progress as well.

The war in Vietnam was a terrible mistake, but even so, Johnson made lasting changes for the good in so many policy areas, it’s mind-boggling. The Republican presidents who followed him were unable to undo this legacy.

Getting back to the historians’ survey, Bill Clinton looks a lot better now than he did before George W. Bush screwed up the country. As a group, the historians ranked him 21st in 2000, but he has moved up to 15th place.

George H.W. Bush moved up slightly from 20th to 18th place.

Did someone’s book launch a revisionist view of Ulysses S. Grant during the last eight years? He ranked 33rd in 2000 but moved up to 23rd place. No other president showed as large a jump in the historians’ rankings. UPDATE: In the Daily Kos thread Judge Moonbox says:

Such a revision is almost certainly due to Eric Foner’s Reconstruction; which wiped away nearly a century of the racist received history–a legacy which proves that history is not always written by the victors. Here it had been written by the Mugwumps.

Also, ORDem linked to this diary by NNadir on how Grant wasn’t a bad president.

Jimmy Carter dropped from 22nd to 25th, and Richard Nixon dropped from 25th to 27th.

This is an open thread for any opinions about how the U.S. presidents should be ranked.

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A Republican for Transportation Secretary and more reaction to Obama's cabinet picks

President-elect Barack Obama has apparently decided to appoint retiring Republican Congressman Ray LaHood of Illinois as Secretary of Transportation. LaHood was elected to the U.S. House in the 1994 landslide. He decided not to run for re-election this year because “It’s not any fun being in the minority.” (Are you listening, Tom Latham?)

An Illinois blogger writes that LaHood doesn’t have much of a record on transportation issues, although he has voted for more public transit funding and more passenger rail service on Amtrak.

At Grist, Ryan Avent sees three possibilities:

  1. Obama doesn’t intend the DOT secretary to do the heavy lifting on his transportation policies,

  2. Obama doesn’t really care about transportation, and

  3. It isn’t true.

But I agree with the reader who suggested a fourth possibility:

4) Obama knows this guy personally, finds him to be a trustworthy sort.  

I am going to hope for number 4 and that Obama will have LaHood implement the transportation priorities Obama and Biden believe in. Expanding passenger rail is one of the biggies.

Incidentally, LaHood was one of the leaders of the impeachment proceedings against Bill Clinton. Let’s hope he won’t try to undermine Obama’s presidency as well.

Regarding Obama’s choice of Senator Ken Salazar for Secretary of Interior, some environmental groups are concerned. He’s far from the environmental champion they were hoping for in Congressman Raul Grijalva. Kate Sheppard has more on the environmental community’s mixed feelings on Salazar at Grist.

However, the Sierra Club praised Salazar, as well as Tom Vilsack, in this press release.

In this Daily Kos diary, Kula 2316 provides more reaction to Obama’s choice of Vilsack for Secretary of Agriculture.

Share any relevant thoughts in the comments.

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Open thread on playing it safe or being bold

Over Thanksgiving my family (all Barack Obama voters in the general) were talking about what we’d like to see him do as president. One of my biggest concerns about Obama has always been that he would compromise too much in the name of bipartisanship and not seize the opportunity to get groundbreaking legislation through Congress. I’ve also worried that he would water down good policies that threaten to significantly bring down his approval rating.

From my perspective, Bill Clinton’s presidency was not very successful for a lot of reasons. Some of them were his fault: he put the wrong people in charge of certain jobs, and he picked the wrong battles and listened too much to Wall Street advisers when it came to policy.

Some things were not Clinton’s fault: the Democrats who ran Congress in 1993 and 1994 were not always interested in working with him, and the leaders of the Republican-controlled Congress were more interested in destroying his presidency than anything else.

After getting burned in the 1994 elections, Clinton hired Dick Morris as a political adviser and moved to the right in order to get re-elected. He served a full two terms, but he didn’t leave a mark on this country. His greatest achievement, balancing the budget, was undone quickly by his successor. Many smaller successes on environmental and social policies were also reversed by George Bush’s administration.

Clinton approved a bunch of good presidential directives, especially on the environment, during his last 60 days in office. Doing them years earlier would not only have been good policy, it also would have prevented Ralph Nader from gaining so much traction in 2000.

Clinton left some very big problems unaddressed, like global warming and our reliance on foreign oil, because the obvious solutions to these problems would have been unpopular.

Compare Clinton’s legacy to that of Lyndon Johnson. Although Johnson made terrible mistakes in Vietnam (continuing and compounding mistakes made by John F. Kennedy), he enacted a domestic agenda that changed this country forever. Some of Johnson’s achievements were popular (Medicare), while others cost the Democrats politically in many states (the Civil Rights Act). But Johnson did not shy away from big change on civil rights because of the political cost.

I understand that no president will ever do everything I’d like to see done. I’d be satisfied if Obama enacted a groundbreaking, lasting improvement in one or two big areas, like health care or global warming. The right policies often have powerful enemies. I would rather see Obama get good laws passed to address a couple of big problems, even if doing so costs him the 2012 election.

My fear is that in Obama will end up like Bill Clinton–a two-term president who didn’t achieve anything that will continue to affect Americans’ lives four or five decades down the road.

If Obama only goes to the mat to accomplish one or two big things, what should they be? Keeping his promise to end the war in Iraq? Getting universal health care through Congress? Taking real steps to address climate change? Enacting a huge public-works program to deal with unemployment? Building high-speed rail connecting major American cities?

Would you be satisfied with progress in one or two areas, even if it meant that Obama was not re-elected in 2012?

After the jump I’ve posted a “meme” on being bold in your personal life, which is going around some of the “mommy blogs.” Some of the questions have more to do with luck or having money than with taking risks or being bold, though.

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Obama: We can't fix the economy without fixing health care

Strong words from President-elect Barack Obama at yesterday’s press conference introducing Tom Daschle as Secretary of Health and Human Services:

Some may ask how, at this moment of economic challenge, we can afford to invest in reforming our health care system. Well, I ask a different question — I ask how we can afford not to….If we want to overcome our economic challenges, we must also finally address our health care challenge.

Obama also promised to address health care “this year,” implying that he will spend political capital to get a plan through Congress in 2009.

Daschle linked health care reform to economic recovery:

Addressing our health care challenges will not only mean healthier and longer lives for millions it will also make American companies more competitive, address the cause of half of all of our personal bankruptcies and foreclosures and help pull our economy out of its current tailspin.

Obama also named Jeanne Lambrew as Daschle’s deputy. Ezra Klein is very pleased with that pick:

Lambrew is an incredibly talented and knowledgeable health wonk, and her involvement should cheer liberals. Unlike during the campaign, when Obama’s health care team seemed heavy on relatively cautious academics, Lambrew has long White House and executive branch experience, and comes to health care as a crusade as much as a topic of study. As Jon Cohn says, the importance of her presence “goes beyond the fact that she happens to know a heck of a lot about health care. She, too, has a strong commitment to what you might call the ‘social justice’ side of the debate.”

For more from Lambrew, check out her congressional testimony from late October, where she argued that “the short-run economic crisis has health policy causes and effects-and arguably the most serious long-run economic challenge is our broken health care system.” That was almost exactly the message Obama delivered today. And it’s the message that will be heard in the White House, and translated into a political strategy by Tom Daschle.

In this article for The American Prospect, Klein compares Obama’s team of “health care heavyweights” to Bill Clinton’s disastrous strategy for pushing health care reform in 1993 and 1994.

The major battle will be making sure there is some public insurance plan Americans can opt into, so that private insurers will need to cover health care in order to compete for customers.

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Open thread on Hillary Clinton and Obama's national security team

At MyDD Todd Beeton has excerpts from this morning’s press conference:

Obama’s introductory remarks are remarkably poetic. “America’s values are our country’s greatest export to the world.”

He’s announced his nomination of Hillary Clinton for secretary of state (“I am proud that she will be our next secretary of state…She will help restore our reputation around the world,”) Robert Gates at defense (“responsibly ending the war in Iraq through a successful transition to Iraqi control”,) Eric Holder for Attorney General (“The Attorney General serves the American people…I have no doubt he will uphold the constitution,”) Janet Napolitano as head of Homeland Security (“she insists on competence and accountability,”) Susan Rice as Ambassador to the UN and Jim Jones as National Security Advisor.

“We will shape our times instead of being shaped by them.” […]

As for his choice of Clinton at state, “it was not a lightbulb moment…she shares my core values and the values of the American people. I was always interested after the primary was over in finding ways to collaborate…It occurred to me that she could potentially be an outstanding secretary of state, I offered her the position and she accepted.”

On whether he still intends to remove troops from Iraq in 16 months: “Remember what I said during the campaign. I said that I would remove our combat troops from Iraq within 16 months keeping in mind that it might be necessary to maintain a residual force…As I said consistently, I will listen to the recommendations of my commanders.”

Like I said last week, I have a bad feeling Gates and Jones were chosen in order to give Obama cover for breaking his campaign promises on Iraq.

Beth Fouhy of the Associated Press has details about the deal Bill Clinton made to allow his wife to become Barack Obama’s secretary of state. Apparently, the former president agreed:

-to disclose the names of every contributor to his foundation since its inception in 1997 and all contributors going forward.

-to refuse donations from foreign governments to the Clinton Global Initiative, his annual charitable conference.

-to cease holding CGI meetings overseas.

-to volunteer to step away from day to day management of the foundation while his wife is secretary of state.

-to submit his speaking schedule to review by the State Department and White House counsel.

-to submit any new sources of income to a similar ethical review.

I still think Hillary Clinton would be able to accomplish more over her lifetime as a senator from New York, but clearly she was strongly motivated to accept this position in Obama’s government.

However, I continue to be amused by the anguished commentaries from those Obama supporters who got too wrapped up in the primary battle to deal with Hillary in her new role.

Share any relevant thoughts in the comments.

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Democratic National Convention open thread

Hillary Clinton released her delegates earlier today and told them that they could vote their conscience, but she had voted for Barack Obama.

Later she urged the convention to nominate Obama by acclamation, which it did enthusiastically.

This is an open thread for discussing any of Wednesday’s speeches or other events at the convention. Bill Clinton and Joe Biden will be the prime-time highlights. (By the way, one of my neighbors has put her Biden for president yard sign back in front of her house. She is “fired up and ready to go,” as they say.)

After the jump I’ve posted the text of Governor Chet Culver’s remarks (as prepared) to the DNC yesterday. He focused on energy policy, which is certainly among my top 10 reasons for Americans to vote for Obama.

UDPATE: When Bill Kristol idiotically claimed last night that Hillary Clinton gave a weak endorsement of Obama, he noted that she hadn’t said Obama would be a good commander in chief.

Guess what? Today’s theme is national security, and Bill Clinton has already said,

“In Barack Obama, America will have the national security leadership we need. My fellow Democrats, I say to you Barack Obama is ready to lead America…”

Got that, Mr. Kristol?

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Obama not ready to "turn the page" on Clintonomics

Though you wouldn’t know it from reading various blogs that support Barack Obama, the Democratic nominee was barely distinguishable from Hillary Clinton on most issues.

TomP reminded me of this in his diary yesterday about Obama choosing “centrist economist Jason Furman as the top economic advisor for the campaign.”

Click the link to learn why labor unions and many progressive organizations, such as Wake Up Wal-Mart and Public Citizen, are “seething” over Obama’s selection of Furman. Among other things, Furman has defended Wal-Mart’s business model and published a 2005 paper labeling Wal-Mart “A Progressive Success Story.”

The Steelworkers’ Union and AFL-CIO are not happy either about Furman’s support for global trade agreements and other writings as head of the Hamilton Project (a centrist economic group started by Bill Clinton’s Treasury Secretary, Robert Rubin).

Some Obama supporters say choosing Hillary Clinton as his running mate would undercut his whole message of getting beyond the 1990s.

Until Obama demonstrates that he is committed to getting beyond Clintonomics, that argument won’t be very convincing.

Obama talked a good game in his speech last week to the Service Employees International Union, but actions speak louder than words. Wall Street and other corporate interests have too much power in the Democratic Party already. Putting Furman in charge of Obama’s economic policy team is a very worrying sign.

By the way, Colin Kahl is still the chairman of Obama’s advisory task force on Iraq:

Kahl is one of the authors of [the Center for a New American Security’s] new report, “Shaping the Iraq Inheritance,” which proposes a policy called “conditional engagement” for Iraq that would leave a large contingent of American forces in Iraq for several years, and which would make America’s presence in Iraq contingent on political progress in Iraq toward reconciliation among the country’s ethnic and sectarian groups and parties.

It’s been two months since reports emerged about Kahl’s support for leaving 60,000 to 80,000 U.S. troops in Iraq at least through the end of 2010. Why won’t Obama fire this guy?

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The Race to Replace Hillary Clinton

With the renewed talk in a “dream ticket”, I thought it might be a good idea to look at who might be stepping into the Hill-ster's old Senate seat should she be movin' on up. (Ed. note–nearly all the news links on this are from the first time this speculation went around, last fall, when the Clinton campaign was on top. Forgive the Spitzer references.)

The rules of the game are slightly different than in Illinois in the case of Sen. Obama. The governor appoints someone to partially fulfill the term of the seat in question with no vote or vetting by the party. That person then holds the seat until 2010, when a special election would be held. Should the same person win, they then serve two more years until 2012–the original end of Sen. Clinton's current term. Therefore, whoever it is better be up for campaigning twice in four years–and winning.

The Magnificent Six:

1. NY Gov David Patterson

    Prior to his ascension to the Governor's office, Patterson was considered the odds on favorite to take the seat. He himself reportedly expressed interest in it on several occasions, both to the media and privately to then-Gov. Eliot “Number 9” Spitzer. If he's still interested in the job, he first must appoint a suitable Lt. Gov to take over his job before Jan. 2009, and then simply sign off on his own promotion. It remains to be seen however, if he can hold his current seat–let alone a Senate position.

2. Fmr. Pres. Bill Clinton

    Let's get this one out of the way early. There is talk that appointing Bill to the senate would solve “the Bill problem”. Some have said that Bill would likely chafe with boredom as the Second Gentleman, and appointment to the Senate would keep him engaged and in power–and he would, by all indications, be a great senator. And there is historical precedent. Both John Adams Quincy and Andrew Johnson both served in the Senate after their terms in office.

3. Robert F. Kennedy Jr.

    As one Kennedy star sets, could another be on the rise? Prominent environmental activist Robert F. Kennedy Jr. has been quoted as saying “If Hillary left the Senate, I might run for that seat.” However, there is no coronation yet for this dynastic son. He's pro-life and strongly Catholic, which may turn off some voters, also he's inherited the Kennedy family skeleton closet. However, the compelling justice of Kennedy ascending to his slain father's Senate seat may be just what NY voters (and the nation at large) are looking for.

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Obama advisor wants 60K to 80K U.S. troops in Iraq through 2010

Barack Obama says he will withdraw U.S. combat troops from Iraq within 16 months if elected president. He was recently endorsed by Bill Richardson, who advocated keeping no residual troops in Iraq (combat or otherwise).

So I was intrigued by this story from the New York Sun about a confidential policy paper written by an adviser to Obama:


The paper, obtained by The New York Sun, was written by Colin Kahl for the center-left Center for a New American Security. In “Stay on Success: A Policy of Conditional Engagement,” Mr. Kahl writes that through negotiations with the Iraqi government “the U.S. should aim to transition to a sustainable over-watch posture (of perhaps 60,000-80,000 forces) by the end of 2010 (although the specific timelines should be the byproduct of negotiations and conditions on the ground).”

Mr. Kahl is the day-to-day coordinator of the Obama campaign’s working group on Iraq. A shorter and less detailed version of this paper appeared on the center’s Web site as a policy brief.

Both Mr. Kahl and a senior Obama campaign adviser reached yesterday said the paper does not represent the campaign’s Iraq position.

I would like a stronger statement from Obama that he categorically rules out keeping tens of thousands of troops in Iraq through the first two years of his administration.

Otherwise Bill Clinton will be proven correct: the idea of Obama as a consistent opponent of the Iraq war is a “fairy tale.”

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NY Post, Daily News 2002: Bill Clinton's Affair w/Lisa Belzberg After Leaving the White House

Bill Clinton's Affair 

Lisa Belzberg

According to Huffington Post, Bill Robinson, the NY Times and the LA Times are sitting on a “Big Clinton Story” that involves his affairs since leaving the White House. Clearly a lot of Indie and other voters would not want to put Bill back in there to cheat again on national TV, just too plain old embarassing.

A Big Clinton Story

Look, I am concerned. I've just spent two weeks travelling and speaking with media elites in L.A., Chicago, NYC, and D.C. and among other things, I was repeatedly told that The New York Times and The L.A. Times are “sitting on a BIG Clinton story.” What concerns me is that this story has nothing to do with Hillary, her policy positions, her record, or her presidential potential. The “big story” everyone is sitting on apparently has to do with the many current affairs of Bill Clinton, whom, they will allege, has a gal in every port.


This story is out there and will come out eventually — Could Hillary win nationally with such a headwind? The newspapers are sitting on these alleged affairs, already reported in the press, perhaps until after the primaries and hoping to kill the Democrat's chances? 

This is from April 2002 and seems to be what the HuffPo was speaking of.  I found it in a few minutes:

Clinton linked with wealthy socialite

THE tangled love life of Bill Clinton was again under the microscope yesterday when he was romantically linked with a glamorous blonde.

A magazine photo showed the former president of the United States in an intimate pose with the Canadian socialite Lisa Belzberg, 38.

They were photographed by Newsweek in front of a refrigerator at her mansion in Katonah, New York. It rekindled long-standing speculation about the pair, who have been spotted together at a number of functions over the past year.

According to the New York Post, Ms Belzberg, a millionairess separated from her husband, the Seagram alcohol heir Matthew Bronfman, about a month ago following a liaison with Mr Clinton.

“Friends were stunned to see the photo of Clinton in front of Lisa’s stainless steel Sub-Zero refrigerator with Jonathan Alter’s cover story on the ex-president,” the paper reported. The article claimed Mr Clinton and Ms Belzberg were involved in an encounter last month.

“She was seen flirting with Clinton at the Super Bowl party he hosted in his Harlem offices,” it added. At the time Mr Clinton joked of his relationship with Ms Belzberg: “She married a guy worth $6 billion, but she still likes to flirt with me.”

A spokeswoman for Ms Belzberg, who runs the educational organisation PENCIL , insisted that she has not been involved in another relationship since her split from Mr Bronfman. “There is no-one else,” she said bluntly.


According to 6/12/02 Page Six of the New York Post: WHATEVER there was between Lisa Belzberg and Bill Clinton, it appears to be over. Belzberg, the brainy blonde behind the PENCIL nonprofit group that helps the public school system, was rumored to be more than friends with the former president, who lives just 10 minutes away from the mother of two in Westchester. “She's heartbroken,” said one source. But there is little chance of reconciliation with her husband, Matthew Bronfman. The Seagram heir, who split with Lisa in February, is said to be very happily dating a fashion industry executive, Stacy Kaye.

Inside Politics 6/13/02: “The New York Post reported yesterday that the relationship between former President Bill Clinton and Lisa Belzberg 'appears to be over.' If we do the math, that means that Mr. Clinton and the pretty blonde socialite lasted seven weeks. “Tabloid rumors of a romance between the two appeared around April 23, claiming the pair met at a Christmas party last year. Mr. Clinton behaved like 'a big old hound dog' and later, trysts reportedly took place in mid-afternoons on the 24th floor of New York's chichi Hudson Hotel.”

What is your political analysis? What if this reporting were announced after she had the nomination sewn up? What impact would it have? 3 points down? 5? 10?

Or maybe you think she'd get some sympathy and gain more votes?  She got elected in NY after Monica, after all.  So maybe this would have zero impact.

I was shocked when I found this out. I had assumed Bill had reformed, so as not to endanger Democratic chances to take back the White House. This is obviously the Big Clinton Story talked about on HuffPo. Why are they sitting on the story?  This was already in the NY papers and will come out eventually!

UPDATED: The Peru FTA's Expanded Giant Sucking Sound Just Got Louder - thanks to Clinton and Obama

In a few moments, I will sign three agreements that will complete our negotiations with Mexico and Canada to create a North American Free Trade Agreement. In the coming months, I will submit this pact to Congress for approval. It will be a hard fight, and I expect to be there with all of you every step of the way. We will make our case as hard and as well as we can. And though the fight will be difficult, I deeply believe we will win. And I’d like to tell you why: first of all, because NAFTA means jobs American jobs, and good-paying American jobs. If I didn’t believe that, I wouldn’t support this agreement.

Former President Bill Clinton speech on NAFTA, Sept. 13, 1993

Well, that didn’t work out so well for us, did it? In fact, third party presidential candidate Ross Perot was more accurate when he described NAFTA as a “giant sucking sound.” So what’s up with the Peru Free Trade Agreement currently being pushed through Congress? Is it more of the same?

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