Thursday, September 13, 2007

Loose Ends
A few semi-random links and musings on current events:

  • Ed Kilgore ponders the "interesting times" of the last ten years in American politics--impeachment, a contested election, a major attack on American soil, a disastrous war of choice, and the partial destruction of a great city, all for the first time since the 19th century or ever--and provides an important reminder that the Republican Party, based on its current crop of presidential candidates, seems fairly proud of what they've wrought. It's astonishing, and endlessly depressing, that we share a country with millions of these people; it's almost enough to lead me to the conclusion that maybe the country just isn't so hot, after all. The fact that the Imbecile-in-Chief continues to play transparent political games with the tragic Iraq war is bad enough; that he's more or less allowed to get away with this by a still-supine press corps and a perpetually timid Democratic opposition is perhaps worse.

  • Speaking of the Party of Lesser Evils, Philadelphia Inquirer political columnist and blogger Dick Polman sets out the story of Hillary Clinton and Democratic fundraiser/criminal fugitive Norman Hsu. I remember being very turned off, in the waning days of the 1996 campaign, by some of Bill Clinton's scummier fundraising activities that were then coming to light; it doesn't seem like they've learned much, or repented at all.

    The FBI is conducting preliminary inquiries into Hsu's bundling activities and business dealings; the Manhattan DA is investigating whether Hsu bilked a private equity firm in a Ponzi scheme. But what interests me is how the Clinton campaign has reacted to all this:

    With all the speed of a turtle trundling through molasses.

    Its first response, last June, was total denial. When a California businessman reportedly emailed the campaign to warn that "there is a significant probability that a man using the name of Norman Hsu is running a Ponzi scheme," a campaign official emailed back to say, "I can tell you with 100 certainty that Norman Hsu is NOT involved in a ponzi scheme. He is COMPLETELY legit."

    Its second response, also last June, was to search public records for information about Hsu, but aides turned up nothing. Apparently they didn't look very hard, because The Washington Post pointed out yesterday that "a commonly used public record search shows that Hsu had multiple business lawsuits filed against him dating back to 1985, filed for bankruptcy in 1990, and was a defendant in two Californis court matters listed as possible criminal cases."

    The campaign's third response, when suspicions about Hsu surfaced in the press in late August, was to praise their bundler. A Clinton flak said: "Norman Hsu is a longtime and generous supporter of the Democratic party and its candidates, including Senator Clinton. During Mr. Hsu’s many years of active participation in the political process, there has been no question about his integrity or his commitment to playing by the rules, and we have absolutely no reason to call his contributions into question." The campaign also said that it would not return any of the Hsu-related campaign contributions.

    The campaign's fourth response was to grudgingly give ground. After it became clear that Hsu was a fugitive from justice, and after other Democratic candidates made it clear that they intended to purge themselves of Hsu money, Clinton did the same, by donating to charity $23,000 that Hsu had personally donated. But the campaign made this announcement in the early evening, after most East Coast news deadlines...and made it clear that Clinton was refusing to give back the donations that Hsu had bundled from others.

    The campaign's fifth response came this past Monday evening. After learning that the FBI was on Hsu's trail, and after learning that The Los Angeles Times had obtained those aforementioned emails (the heads-up from the California businessman, and the 100 percent denial from the campaign), Clinton decided to give back the donations that Hsu had bundled from others. That's the $850,000. But the campaign, to soften the blow, made this announcement in the early evening (sound familiar?), after most East Coast news deadlines, and after the network news shows had gone on the air in the East, mostly with the dominant coverage of the Petraus hearings on Iraq. And now the campaign is refusing to disclose the names of the 260 bundlees who are poised to get their money back.

    I hope that any of her rivals who choose to attack The Empress on this--I doubt Obama will, for both style and substance reasons, but Edwards certainly might--will note that Sen. Clinton, like Bill, always has had a high comfort level with pay-to-play politics and disdain, if not disgust, for attempts to regulate the system. She was the leading opponent within the Democratic Senate caucus to the McCain-Feingold reform, mocking Russ Feingold for his naivete and complaining that the reform would destroy Democrats' political competitiveness.

    As quarterly reporting numbers for the congressional campaign committees and the presidential candidates themselves have shown again and again, this hasn't exactly been the case--and while I'm not saying that Feingold foresaw the political and technological changes that would make the Democrats more than competitive in fund-raising, I think the point is that he put principle first whatever the outcome. Has Hillary Clinton ever done as much?

  • Related to all this, the recent news about next year's Senate races--most notably the retirements of John Warner (VA) and Chuck Hagel (NE) and the possible/likely candidacies of Mark Warner and Bob Kerrey to replace them--combined with the likelihood that the Democrats will nominate Senator Clinton, could contribute to an outcome that I believe is unprecedented: the Democrats lose their House majority while making big gains in the Senate. I've written before about my belief that Sen. Clinton will endanger, probably doom, many of the Democratic Representatives who won last year in districts where Bush defeated John Kerry in 2004. And I'm still waiting for some smart national political reporter to contact the offices of, say, Reps. Ellsworth in Indiana, Shuler of North Carolina, or Boyda of Kansas to ask them how they feel about running "with" someone perceived as a veritable devil by many of their constituents. But I think her impact in the Senate races will be much more limited. Mark Warner has his own base in Virginia, as does Kerrey in Nebraska. Democratic takeover efforts in New Hampshire, Minnesota, and Oregon, all Kerry-supporting states, probably won't be hurt by Sen. Clinton. She may or may not lower the odds for a takeover in Colorado, and she probably removes whatever slim chance the Democrats had for upsets in North Carolina, Kentucky and New Mexico. But they should still anticipate a good year in 2008, with a larger Senate majority--enough to kick Joe Lieberman out of the caucus. The question will be whether Harry Reid has a Democratic Speaker and President to work with.


Feral said...

"I must tell you, I'm sleeping a lot better than people would assume."
-- George Bush, to People magazine

David said...

That reminds me of a line from a review of one of the recent Iraq documentaries. Paraphrasing, it was something like "The people who criticized the war from the outset are still tormented by it, while those who got everything wrong seem largely at peace."