Release of thousands of pages of Sen. Clinton's calendar suggests her campaign rhetoric elevated her importance far beyond what it was when she served as First Lady. No surprise there. The same organization that obtained release of these documents is now focusing on getting her phone records released and is meeting similar resistance.
As the run for the Democrat nomination moves into its last stages, pressures mount and more "empty" shoes fall. By the time the final presidential campaign begins either of the two Democrat candidates will have sustained hits of their own doing having tried to sell what is turning out to be "hot air" regarding their respective experience and judgment. What we are finding out is they have indulged in a lot of zigging and zagging and obfuscation.
In the final analysis the public may choose the Democrat's offering out of frustration and discontent over the Iraq War, economic fear and unhappiness over their declining home values and concerns about McCain, who is also vulnerable on age, possible health condition, intemperateness and because of whom he selects as his partner on the Republican ticket.
If Hillary winds up winning the nomination because of manipulation of Michigan, Florida and/or super-delegate switches, that would probably alienate one of the Democrat's most reliable and largest constituency blocs - Black voters. If Obama becomes his party's nominee recent revelations could serve to shift the unaligned in McCain's direction and cause another "surge" - the Far Right of McCain's party could become energized. Rev. Wright's sermons do not sit well with those who consider themselves main-stream Americans. They do not like to hear a preacher damn their nation and are queasy about a man- Senator- who heard and did not walk away becoming their president.
At the very least we have been witnessing and are likely to continue witnessing a very interesting campaign. Add the potential impact of a possible attack on Iran, another terrorist episode designed to influence voters, war in the Middle East, China's response to uprisings while portraying themselves as progressives at The Olympics and continuing instability in the financial markets and you have a host of other significant variables to add to the election equation.
Americans are a restless lot, they like action. By the time we select "whomever" as President they should have had a belly full.
In today's WSJ, Daniel Henninger writes about David Mamet's Revision from a devoted liberal to a non-believer in their warped philosophy. Mamet follows the earlier path of David Horowitz, who was a mad Hippie and radical Liberal in the '60's eventually saw the light and is now a solid conservative, writing books about his youthful mis-adventures and beliefs.This is why I urge all my memo readers to familiarize themselves with Hayek's: "Road To Serfdom" and Rand's: "Atlas Shrugged."
One would think after mounting evidence that most government programs are the problem rather than the solutions and, over time, produce counterproductive results they would begin to think more rationally about what they hear from politicians. Politicians have a way of couching their appeals to the heart not the head. That is what Sen. Obama has been all about and he is now being unmasked. A decent, bright and articulate man who just happens to espouse bad solutions which he sold on the basis of being opposed to the Iraq War, which was initiated by a president who made many mistakes, became unpopular in the process but now is beginning to get it right.
In that regard, I urge you also read the lead Editorial in today's Wall Street journal and Dan Senor and Roman Martinez's op ed piece entitled: "Whatever Happened To Moqtada?"
To hear David Broder tell it, Sen. McCain missed an opportunity. (See 3 below.)
1) Group Wants Clinton's Phone Logs Released
By PETE YOST
WASHINGTON - Hillary Rodham Clinton's early job as health care policymaker gave way during the remainder of her years as first lady to a more traditional, restricted role, according to thousands of pages of calendars outlining her activities in the White House.
While her influence clearly waned after the collapse of a national health care initiative, Clinton became part of the public face of her husband's administration, on issues from foreign policy to domestic legislation.
Among the documents released Wednesday by the National Archives: stage directions during the 1996 presidential campaign for a bill signing ceremony on legislation to protect workers' health insurance. "HRC will not have a role but will be seated in the front row," the schedule states.
The calendars reflect her extensive itineraries abroad, a record she has used in the presidential campaign to demonstrate readiness for office.
But while Clinton engaged in substantive meetings with foreign leaders over the eight years, the overseas events are heavy with more traditional appearances by a first lady.
The schedules show her meeting other political wives, having lunch with prominent women, touring cathedrals and hospitals and engaging in various ceremonial duties in trips to Japan, Russia and other countries.
The schedules showing Clinton's engagement on a wide range of matters are an outline and don't reflect phone calls or impromptu strategy sessions, says her presidential campaign.
Those phone calls were at issue Thursday in federal court in Washington. A conservative group that won release of the calendars was pushing for release of 20,000 pages of the former first lady's phone logs.
The National Archives estimates it will take at least one to two years before it can begin processing the phone logs and offers no estimate on a release date. The archives is asking a federal judge for a halt to the processing of any additional records in the case, citing limited resources and other requests it says must be processed in a fair and orderly manner.
"Under the law, these phone records should have been released two years ago," said Tom Fitton, president of Judicial Watch, the group that succeeded in getting the calendars released. "Voters shouldn't have to wait two more years for these records of a presidential candidate."
Clinton was an early champion of the North American Free Trade Agreement that she now criticizes. The schedules show her holding at least five meetings in 1993 aimed at helping to win congressional approval of the deal.
She also pushed NAFTA on multiple occasions, including one in November 1993 at a closed meeting with 120 expected participants. As a presidential candidate, she blames the pact for costing jobs and promises to renegotiate it.
The calendars raise at least as many questions as they answer about her statements in the campaign promoting her foreign policy experience.
For example, the calendars show that on problems in the Balkans, she met for 30 minutes in Washington on April 21, 1999, with the Macedonian ambassador to the United States, followed by her May 14, 1999, trip to the Balkans. What is unclear is whether that experience justifies her statement on the campaign trail that "I negotiated open borders to let fleeing refugees into safety from Kosovo."
2) WONDER LAND; David Mamet's Revision
By DANIEL HENNINGER
The American playwright David Mamet wrote a piece for the Village Voice last week titled, "Why I Am No Longer a 'Brain-Dead Liberal.'" Mr. Mamet, whose characters famously use the f-word as a rhythmic device (I think of it now as the "Mamet-word"), didn't himself mince words on his transition. He was riding with his wife one day, listening to National Public Radio: "I felt my facial muscles tightening, and the words beginning to form in my mind: 'Shut the [Mamet-word] up.'" Been known to happen.
Toward the end of the essay, he names names: "I began reading not only the economics of Thomas Sowell (our greatest contemporary philosopher) but Milton Friedman, Paul Johnson, and Shelby Steele, and a host of conservative writers, and found that I agreed with them: a free-market understanding of the world meshes more perfectly with my experience than that idealistic vision I called liberalism."
This of course is an outrage against polite American wisdom. Isn't Paul Krugman supposed to be our greatest living philosopher? One would have thought that David Mamet saying bye-bye to liberalism would have launched sputterings everywhere. But not a word.
As I think Groucho Marx once said, either no one reads the Village Voice anymore or my watch has stopped.
That one of the language's greatest living playwrights would say this in our hyperventilated political times was news worth noting in most of the English-speaking world. Commentaries appeared the past week in England, Canada and Australia. But there's been nary a peep about Mr. Mamet going over the wall in what some call the Mainstream Media.
Matt Drudge put news of the Mamet essay at the top of his Web site the day it appeared, so it was hard not to notice. Yesterday the Los Angeles Times printed an op-ed piece on it by the crime novelist Andrew Klavan, welcoming Mr. Mamet. For the most part, though, this is being treated in liberal drawing rooms like a favorite uncle gone suddenly dotty. A reporter for the Times of London put the apostasy to actor Kevin Spacey, now appearing there in Mr. Mamet's "Speed the Plough." "I didn't pay it much attention," said Mr. Spacey.
Which raises the question: If a liberal falls in the liberal forest and no one says they heard it, can you say it didn't happen? Mr. Mamet must feel like the guy in a mob movie who knows the hit is coming but has to sweat through to the bullet.
There is a more benign explanation for the silence of American punditry's liberal lambs. They have their hands full with Barack and Hillary. No playwright since blood-soaked Greece would have tried to script the furies let loose by the struggle between these two senators.
The Rev. Jeremiah Wright, whose mad lines no one would think to write -- "God damn America!" -- has returned to haunt the holy candidacy of Barack Obama. In turn, Sen. Obama has been forced to give a speech reanimating racial ghosts back to the nation's founding -- a Constitution "stained by this nation's original sin of slavery." This is primal stuff. Meanwhile the Democratic elders, in their role as Super Delegates, must wrestle with knowing that this foul poison was set by factions loyal to Hillary Clinton, whose own personal loyalties are . . . well, you don't need me to get into all that.
With blood on the party's temple floor, who has time to give a flying [Mamet-word] about what this guy thinks? (Also, his essay appeared the day after the Spitzer melodrama began its short, but unforgettable, New York run.)
Still a thought: If David Mamet says he can't take it anymore, can others be far behind? Were I a Democratic Party strategist, out on the frontier of voter sentiment, my thought would be: This is not good for Democrats. David Mamet's mind is a tuning fork of regular-guy sentiment. He's the one who wrote "Glengarry Glen Ross." He says he's been a reliable liberal all his life. All of a sudden, the party sounds off-key. What if other guys are starting to think this? What if, after Barack's charisma gets stripped away, all you're left with is "universal health care" and Hillary's blind ambition? Come November, you could be [Mamet-worded].
Hollywood does a good job of policing the public political activities and statements of its workforce. Step out of its left line, the man comes and take you away. It helps the policers that Hollywood's writers have little script autonomy. They do as told and get used to it. Playwrights, by contrast, have total control over what their scripts say. This, one suspects, affects the two trades' habits of thinking.
In a remarkable coincidence with the Mamet essay, the playwright Tom Stoppard just published a piece in the Sunday Times of London ripping the 1968 student demonstrations there, in Paris, and elsewhere. Admitting he was thought by the left even then to be "politically dubious," Mr. Stoppard says he "was embarrassed by the slogans and postures of rebellion in a society which, in London as in Paris . . . seemed to me to be the least worst system into which one might have been born -- the open liberal democracy whose very essence was the toleration of dissent."
Mr. Mamet in his (often hilarious) goodbye-to-liberalism essay credits the famed American newspaper editor William Allen White with the idea that government should basically stay out of the way of people trying to work out ways to get along and get ahead. Tom Stoppard ends with the same, central point: "The idea of the autonomy of the individual is echoed, I realize, all over the place in my writing."
Many Democrats know that individual autonomy is the moving spirit of our times. The Web is its relentless, daily metaphor. This notion is embedded in the thought of the writers David Mamet has been reading of late. Left-liberalism breeds many autonomous spirits -- but only in their private lives. The party's ethos is as it was in 1930 -- dark forces arrayed to thwart the delivery of benevolence to fragile masses. For the latest standard version, see the end of Mr. Obama's Tuesday speech on "the real culprits of the middle-class squeeze."
Unless the Democrats figure out a way to back down big brother, the years ahead likely will bring more Mamet drop-outs. Belief in autonomy may even reach Hollywood.
3) McCain's Missed Iraq Opportunity
By David Broder
WASHINGTON -- These are salad days for John McCain, touring world capitals with his buddies Joe Lieberman and Lindsey Graham, meeting foreign leaders and returning to Washington with his nomination secure and polls confirming that he is well positioned to challenge either Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama.
But I have a hunch that the senator from Arizona may look back on his stopover in Baghdad on Sunday and Monday as a missed opportunity.
It is obvious that the Democrats are planning to run against McCain by linking him as tightly as possible with President Bush, the instigator of the Iraq War and the captain of a seriously shaky economy.
As a member of the minority party in a largely dysfunctional Senate, there is little McCain can do to rescue the economy.
But the Baghdad visit offered him a chance to deal with the other big barrier to his election -- his close identification with the Bush policies in a war now into its sixth wearying year.
In the public mind, McCain is closely bound to Bush's most consequential gamble, because he has been a vocal and consistent supporter of the decision to invade Iraq, and because he has been perhaps the most outspoken defender of the troop surge that has, thank goodness, reduced U.S. casualties and brought stability to some parts of the country.
But as much as McCain is linked to Bush on Iraq, he is even more closely tied to Gen. David Petraeus, the commander who devised and executed the counterinsurgency strategy that McCain was calling for long before Bush endorsed it.
When I read Petraeus' comments to The Washington Post, just days before McCain landed in Baghdad, I thought, "What an opening he has created for McCain." Cameron W. Barr, who interviewed the general for the Post, quoted Petraeus as saying that "no one" on either the Iraqi or U.S. side "feels that there has been sufficient progress by any means in the area of national reconciliation" or the provision of basic services.
Petraeus told Barr that he and Ambassador Ryan C. Crocker had "repeatedly noted that it's crucial that the Iraqis exploit the opportunities that we and our Iraqi counterparts have fought so hard to provide them."
That clearly opened the door for McCain, as a prospective president, to signal the government of Nouri al-Maliki that his patience with the political impasse is not inexhaustible.
That impasse has blocked the needed oil law and inexcusably delayed setting a date for provincial elections that could lead to a federal system -- empowering Sunnis and Kurds.
Bush and Maliki have both called these steps vital benchmarks, but Bush has refused to threaten any consequences for Iraqi obduracy. If McCain had told Maliki that he cannot continue to dither, he could have accomplished two important goals.
Because Clinton and Obama have publicly committed to a quick start in reducing U.S. combat forces in Iraq, if either becomes president, a warning shot from McCain -- even without a timetable -- would put the Iraqis on notice that the next president would not be as accommodating as Bush.
And politically, it would send a dramatic message that McCain is not in lockstep with Bush, while once again aligning him with Petraeus.
So far as I can judge from the few public statements McCain uttered while in Baghdad, the senator said no such thing.
When CNN's John King asked him during his visit to comment on Petraeus' "frustration with the pace of political progress," McCain gave a bland response.
"Well," he began, "General Petraeus has actually said he is pleased with some of the progress. All of us are frustrated with some of the progress they haven't made, particularly provincial elections. That needs to happen."
McCain went on to say, "So, they need to pass the oil revenue-sharing -- the hydrocarbon law. They need to have a better functioning government in many ways. They have got too many ministries. They have got too many bureaucracies."
McCain concluded with the thought that "I will be glad to stake my campaign on the fact that this has succeeded and the American people appreciate it."
For a man with a reputation for "straight talk," that sounds suspiciously like pulling his punches. My sense is that voters would be more willing to give McCain the open-ended commitment he desires in Iraq if they thought the Iraqis were fulfilling their part of the bargain. McCain had a chance to deliver that message publicly in Baghdad, and, as far I can see, he missed it.
Instead, he twice mistakenly said that Iran was aiding the Sunni-based al-Qaeda in Iraq, not the Shiite militants -- until corrected by Lieberman, thus denting his claim to expertise in the region.