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The [Wednesday] Papers

In just the latest example of how the Obama campaign has controlled the delegate narrative, the Sun-Times proclaims on its front page today "Yes, He Did: Obama reaches major milestone by snagging majority of pledged delegates."

Similarly, the Tribune - and other papers - noted the "milestone."

But is it really a milestone?

Earlier in the campaign, when it became apparent that neither candidate would win enough pledged delegates to reach the number needed for nomination, the Obama campaign pressed the notion that it was the Clinton campaign aiming to "take away" the nomination through superdelegates, conveniently ignoring the fact that it, too, would need superdelegates to win.

Then the Obama campaign pressed the notion that superdelegates should vote with "the will of the people," even if its own superdelegates such as Ted Kennedy, John Kerry and, later, Bill Richardson pledged themselves to Obama even though their constituents voted for Clinton. And Obama never offered to hand over his delegate advantage places like Nevada and Texas because he actually lost the popular vote in those states to Clinton.

Then the notion of actually deciding the nominee at the convention instead of using the convention as a politics-as-usual public relations stunt was described as too divisive, even though, say, Ted Kennedy and Ronald Reagan took their primary fights to the convention against sitting presidents of their own party, and Gary Hart took his fight to the convention, where superdelegates delivered for Walter Mondale, just to name a few instances from American history.

Hell, Adlai Stevenson went to the 1952 convention without even being a candidate and came out the nominee after three rounds of votes, the first of which was won by Estes Kefauver.

The Democratic Party can choose their nominee any way they want to; it's not like any of this is inscribed in law. Political parties are private entities with their own rules that ultimately have very little to do with the public interest or democracy.

Delegates are not awarded on the basis of the popular vote, but on complex formulas based on congressional districts and turnout totals in past elections. The Obama campaign mastered running up delegate totals in red states largely uncontested by the Clinton campaign and winning particular districts like those in Nevada that would give it delegates disproportionate to what it could achieve in the popular vote. The Obama campaign had every right to do so, but the story was different in states Clinton competed in, despite her massive financial disadvantage. Again, that's her problem, not his, but let's see the nomination process clearly for what it is: an exercise in cynical political gamesmanship.

And again, that's the party's business. But it ought not be the media's. Winning the majority of pledged delegates is a nice talking point that distracts the media from Obama's landslide loss in Kentucky - following losses in Pennyslvania, Ohio, Indiana, Texas, California, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, West Virginia, Rhode Island, Tennessee, New Mexico, Arizona, Oklahoma, Arkansas and likely losses in Michigan and Florida if re-dos there weren't stymied by the hope-and-change Obama campaign - but that's what it is: an artificial talking point.

At this juncture, due to the fanaticism of the Obama cult, I will hereby declare once again that I am not a Hillary Clinton supporter. I have written here several times that her vote to authorize the Iraq War is reason enough to reject her candidacy. But I am a supporter of the facts, and of the notion that the media's job is to deflate the spin and cut through the bullshit, not amplify it.

In other words, just because the campaign sends Obama to Iowa to get you to write stories about how he has come "full circle" and can too win white votes doesn't mean you have to comply. Maybe a better approach is to write a story about the incredibly curious campaign ploy that put Obama in Iowa on a night when primaries where held in Oregon and Kentucky. Along the way, you might explore the notion that Iowa Democrats - even white ones - are somehow representative of anything other than an anti-democratic caucus process that Howard Dean once correctly called a sham.

Fairy Tale
At a lunch recently with a female Obama supporter, I mentioned sexism in the campaign's media coverage. "There hasn't been any!" she screamed. Not even a little? No!

And when I recounted how the Obama campaign turned Bill Clinton's remark about how Obama's record on the Iraq War was a fairy tale into a racial smear - I'm still waiting for someone to explain that one to me - she said, "We want to believe in the fairy tale."

At another lunch with several Obama supporters, none were interested in a discussion of simple, underlying objective facts that we could agree on about the campaign. "Let's look at the underlying facts," I kept pleading, regardless of who you support. But they were Democrats, they said, and they just wanted to win. That was all that mattered - even among the supposed hope-and-change cohort.

See, I actually believe in hope and change. But when I asked why Obama's lies didn't matter as much as Clinton's, I was told "Because we like him."

Netroots Nuttiness
Influential Daily Kos founder Markos Moulitsas began this campaign skeptical of Obama, but ever since he unenthusiastically threw his lot in with Obama, he's run a scorched-earth campaign on his site against Hillary Clinton so vicious that a stable of bloggers began boycotting him.

And what is Kos all about? Recently he said this of his man: "'Rise above politics'? His refusal to acknowledge the political reality may very well be his greatest weakness. I hope it's all an act. I can take cynical political rhetoric. I expect it. And it's not like Clinton is offering anything different in that department. But if Obama actually believes. it, then the Republicans will chew him up and spit him out."

Kos hopes it's all an act.

A certain number of my readers don't like it when I write about Obama. They don't mind the constant pounding of Daley, Blagojevich, Stroger. But somehow, Obama is a man apart. Maybe the cognitive dissonance is too much to take.

But here's the central irony to that, described by a writer on another big liberal blog, MyDirectDemocracy"

"Obama supporters who say they want unity but only breed division. I'm truly amazed at the lack of self-awareness of some Obama supporters who evangelize for their candidate by tearing down his opponent and/or her supporters. If you are an Obama supporter and you intend to bash a Hillary supporter or Hillary herself, think for a second 'What would Barack do?' If your actions betray the very rationale of the candidacy of your candidate, try selling your BS elsewhere."

I'm exactly the kind of person who normally would get aboard the Obama Train, but when he says change is coming to America, I still can't figure out what the hell he is talking about. I would dearly love to see an African-American president. That much is true. But Obama's rhetoric strikes me as the ultimate in gentrified change. You know, the appearance of something cool and hip that is nonetheless safe and secure for middle-of-the-roaders who only want the sheen of being revolutionary, not the reality.

And I'm pretty sure Obama isn't going to try very hard to get me health insurance. Not if it means being impolite.

I've already seen a campaign based on changing the tone in Washington and working across the aisle. That was in 2000. It was the rationale for the campaign of George W. Bush.

Programming Note
I'll bring you the rest of the day's news over Division Street later today.

1. From Levi Stahl:

I'm one of those people who sometimes gets irked at your hammering Obama, but I understand how it fits within your mission here to critique the way the press works.

But I gotta say: the campaign's sophisticated approach to the amassing of pledged delegates, which you note as a sign of the fundamentally undemocratic nature of the whole process, to me suggests that Obama's the sort of leader I want. It took some serious planning and long-term thinking a year-and-a-half ago to map out the details of delegate allocations and make district-by-district plans to eke out as many as they could. Obama and his team did it, while Clinton's team, by all appearances, didn't bother. He may have been up there talking about change, but his people were doing the grunt work to make that change possible. The rules may be undemocratic (so's the Senate, for that matter), but they're the rules, and Obama's team put in the thought and the time to make them work for them.

I see your point about the danger that Obama's sometimes airy rhetoric being a cover for a Bush-style non-entity, but this campaign's detail-oriented approach has given me a lot of hope that Obama will demonstrate the ability to push (and to hire the right people to push) his agenda through when he gets there. (And it really is a good agenda: though I disagree in points with him (gay marriage, health plan that could be better), on a host of issues, from Cuba to loose nukes, he's staking out positions far closer to mine than I'm used to seeing from the people I'm given the chance to vote for.)

Regardless, keep up the good work. It wouldn't be any fun if I always agreed with everything you write!

The Beachwood Tip Line: Sealed for your protection.

Posted on May 21, 2008

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