Friday, June 27, 2008

"Constructionism" and Gun Control

I agree that the Second Amendment is ambiguous enough to sustain differing interpretations. Is the right to bear arms something the citizenry has in the context of a well-regulated militia, or is that right a necessary precondition for same that thus needs to be protected? This is the crux of the 5-4 disagreement on yesterday's historic decision that the Second Amendment does in fact constitute an inalienable right of the individual citizen to own a gun, something never before found by a court in our history, believe it or not.
Today I'm not so much engaged in this Talmudic argument as I am by the question of what a "conservative" Supreme Court really amounts to. What we've been told for many a long year is that "conservative" jurisprudence is not really "political" in the secular sense of pushing an agenda (unlike liberal jurisprudence, supposedly). Rather "constructionists" (famously Robert Bork) claimed that it was legislators who determined the law, and that when liberal jurors found "rights" that were not explicitly contained in the constitution they were legislating from the bench: liberals were "activist judges" who had gone beyond their constitutional function. The interesting thing about a strict constructionist like Bork was that his view definitely worked both ways: just as he repudiated Griswold vs. Connecticut, which struck down a Connecticut law prohibiting birth control, on the grounds that no right to birth control could be found in the Constitution, so his position committed him to the view that if, say, California mandated birth control use, the courts would be beyond their purvue to intervene. Similarly, in arguing for a state's prerogative to prohibit political demonstrations, he admitted that his view also precluded judicial intervention if a state were to mandate, Cuban-style, participation in demonstrations. Of course this testimony belied Bork's legitimacy: he was nominated because he was correctly thought by the Reagan administration to intend to apply his reasoning to defending right-wing zealotry, not zealotry of the left-wing variety. Nothing in strict constructionism tends in either direction. The whole thrust of constructionism, in fact, is to affirm the authority of the legislature and to limit the power of the judiciary. It's a judicial philosophy that a doctrinaire socialist could easily love, and the Senate was right to reject Bork's nomination.
But it doesn't look like we have to worry about the perils of constructionism, because the newly right-leaning Roberts Court has flown in the face of that philosophy with yesterday's decision: they have codified a new right, like the right to privacy or the right to an abortion, not explicitly stated in the Constitution. This signals that the Roberts Court will pursue a conservative political agenda. They will invoke juisprudential notions when it suits them, but these will be ignored, as they were yesterday, when they are politically inconvenient. Meet the new boss, same as the old boss: activist judges!

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Money, Judges, Terror: Isn't Politics Great?

A few items between working with my plants in Puerto Rico in the spring:
1) On Obama's decision to forego public financing:
The McCain campaign is trying this week to make an issue out of Obama's recent policy reversal. McCain is working the vein of his high poll numbers on "personal character." The idea is that Obama, in signing a pledge to participate in public financing last year and then going back on that pledge this week, is showing that he is not as good as his word.
First, a little reality check: all national-level politicians, certainly including McCain, reverse themselves regularly on all manner of things in the process of navigating the political rapids. This is not even a particularly stand-out example of expedient duplicity, and here's why: because Obama turns out to be able to raise literally hundreds of millions of dollars over the internet and from small, individual donors, vs. the $85 million limit he would have accepted under public financing. More money=more likelihood of winning the election. If you follow politics, that moves you, and if you don't you don't care about this issue de jour anyway.
Which brings me to what I was thinking about this morning. The McCain line is that our wonderful crush Obama, up there on his pedestal, turns out to be playing down and dirty like all the rest of them. Don't trust Prince Charming! (Which puts McCain in the position of the disapproving father-in-law like Dole in '96.) But I think that this line of attack backfires. Conventional wisdom since the 70s has been that the Republicans are tough campaigners, and the Democrats are wimps. Republican tough guys like Lee Atwater and Tom Delay didn't mind playing some dirty pool; just look away if you don't like it, until we get the job done for you. And finally, in the 90s, with Clinton-Gore, we finally had our own SOBs. Halleluya! The Clintons have always understood that you have to win first, and that that means poisoned winecups and knives in the back and throwings of innocents over the side. And winning elections. McCain has been comparing Obama to Jimmy Carter. This kind of thing only illustrates that Obama is more Clintonian than Carteresque. Republicans beware.
Speaking of the Republicans, remember that business about how "true conservatives" loathed McCain, cast McCain out, would vote for McCain over their dead bodies (with apologies to Yogi Berra)? Part of the reason for that was that McCain was a maverick champion of campaign finance reform, something that the Republican Party (you will recall) was against. Part of why that was so treasonous, apart from the fact that "movement conservatives" surprisingly turn out to be people who think that Daddy Warbucks ought to be allowed to buy elections any way he can, was that campaign finance reform was generally thought to tend to help Democrats win elections.
So is McCain likely to draw blood on this one? No. What should Obama do? Carry on!
2) An even mini-er flap that blipped across the screen this morning was a report that job applicants to the Justice Department were turned away partially on the basis of their political attitudes and activities. I think that Joe Scarborough is right that this is just business as usual since the 1700s (although the lead paragraph of the NYT story reports that the discriminatory actions were illegal). The question is, why does the big bad Bush administration get clobbered with a news story about it? The specific answer is that the Bush Justice Department was called out on much more serious political machinations over appointments to United States Attorneys' offices, so they now draw critical attention. But consider what a train wreck for conservatism this is. Conservatives long cherished the idea that they were the pure ones, who had a "strict constructionist" view of the role of the judiciary and thus a) weren't playing politics with judicial appointments in the same sense that liberals were, and b) didn't appoint jurors who would do the same. Twenty-eight years after Reagan's election, how does it look to most voters? Like the Republicans are the supreme political gamers of the judiciary, thoroughly politicized and positively theological. Of course worldlier Republicans will explain to you that judicial appointments are essentially political combat from the earliest days of the republic; see item 1.
3) A more serious topic this week is that of terror attacks and voter behavior. Charlie Black, one of McCain's top campaign officials, commented this week that a terror attack between now and Election Day would help McCain. McCain immediately repudiated those remarks and as of this writing it is not clear if there will be further consequences.
First to the rhetoric: McCain makes a big show of repudiating the remark because the implication is that the campaign is secretly hoping for an attack, an "October surprise" that will swing the public back around to the hawk. Besides the idea of hoping for bad news (as in casualties), this also leads in the paranoid direction (although our educational system seems to be more effective in immunizing people from vast conspiracy theories than does, say, the French). Well sure: I for one don't believe for a second that John McCain is secretly hoping for somebody to blow up a building. The problem here is that we seem to get stuck in an unhelpful "no talk rule" where nobody is allowed to speculate on the political impact of possible terror attacks. Nobody except everybody (that's how no talk rules work).
On to the substance: People certainly do attempt to influence US elections with both talk and action. Dick Cheney just went on the air and said it in the election of 2004: "A terror attack would be more likely if the Democrats won." Lots of people howled in protest, but the Vice-President is an unflinching sort of fellow. More important to remember is that the Iranians very consciously tried to bring Jimmy Carter down during the Hostage Crisis of 1980. Conventional wisdom (such as Charlie Black expressed) on this issue can largely be traced back to Carter's loss of that election and the subsequent release of the hostages on the day of Reagan's inauguration.
That doesn't mean that the conventional wisdom is right. On the one hand, it's true that there has not been another large-scale successful attack since 9/11, and the Administration can claim credit for that, but on the other hand a successful attack now would play to a Democratic argument, that the Bush Administration's militancy has not actually made the world safer. (I would note that another problem at this point is that the Americans are systematically overestimating the degree of control that they have over events, one way or another.) We all labor within our own set of biases. To me it looks like common sense that militant anti-Americans want right-wing, militarist administrations in the US. A war, after all, is precisely what they want. Just obvious-seeming to me, but lots of people disagree. Politics is hard, that's why we tend to get formulaic.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Whole Lotta Lemons

Yesterday the CBS/NYT poll reported that 81% of respondents thought that the country was headed down the wrong track, the highest number in the history of the poll. I'll bet I'm not the only liberal who thinks that there might be a silk lining in this sow's purse. That's a big bag of lemons, enough to make a whole lot of lemonade. Even as the ominous economic news keeps not going away, there is a palpable and growing sense that the US is ready to make changes. That's what this kind of polling data reveals: a willingness on the part of individuals to make changes in their own lives.
Great leaders (Lincoln, FDR) know what any good teacher knows: people rise to the level of the expectations that are put on them. If one treats people as passive spectators, that's how they behave. But contrary to some of our lazier intuitions, it also turns out that people don't like to be passive spectators. People want to feel that their lives have meaning, that they have something to commit to, and eventually something to be proud of. And that requires engaging them at a personal level in challenges and problems. Maybe the biggest failure of the Bush Administration is the utter lack of any sense of sacrifice, even a sense of responsibility, on the part of the citizenry. It suits the corporatists if we are just consumers, and it suits the conservatives if the government makes no demands whatsoever on the commonweal. But this ideological value of detaching the public from the government of the nation is a spiritual dead-end. People need that sense of communal enterprise, shared effort and sacrifice. Right now we're at the end of two terms of Alfred E. Neumann, and you can feel the dissatisfaction: it's a dissatisfaction with our own lives as citizens, not just with the service we're getting from our elected servants (and this Administration doesn't act like servants, they act like masters).
It's a dangerous business. The good argument that Bush has (and yes, that he does understand, if you listen to him) is that demagogues have always harnessed collective energies to this or that cause, creating enemies, fanning hatreds, consolidating power (the argument is weakened coming from Bush, since he does so much of this stuff himself). I too am wary of the dangerous potential of collectivist thought. So, what to do?
Energy policy, is the obvious thing. The People are telling us through these polls that they are ready to make real sacrifices, to change the patterns of their own lives, to evolve, to get involved. The next president needs to approach energy policy the same way JFK approached the moon shot in the Sixties. Set a goal, one that is positive and in the national interest. Be ambitious. Communicate to the public that the goals can be reached only through collective action: we can't just vote for a policy platform and then sit back like we just changed the channel. Reduce energy consumption, increase all forms of energy production.
Another thing that has to change is America's role as global gendarme. We've already been fired from this job by the rest of the world. We just haven't noticed it yet. And I will say this for the USA: the Europeans and the Asians are much too hidebound and cautious to take the radical actions that will be needed. We're still going to have to lead, by cultural default, even as we finesse the end of our hegemony, such as it is. And good riddance to it!

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

The Obamas and the Threat of Blackness

This past Sunday, Father's Day, Barack Obama gave a speech at a black church in which he deplored the fact that more than fifty percent of black children in America are growing up in single-family homes. He pointed out that while this is a problem in society in general, the numbers on the black community are particularly bad. He used strong language to go after black men who do not accept parenting responsibilities: "Any fool can have a child, it takes a man to be a father," etc. What was interesting was the discussion of Obama's speech in the media. Some pundits seemed to think that the speech had to be meant either for his black audience or for the white audience. Those pundits often interpreted the speech as a kind of "Sister Souljah moment," an attempt by Obama to reassure white voters that...what, exactly? That on social issues, he wasn't too...what? Libertine? Highly sexed, maybe? Irresponsible? What we see here is not the threat of Barack Obama, a politician with a particular set of priorities and intentions, but rather the way that Obama will inevitably become a screen upon which are projected everyone's thoughts and feelings, conscious and unconscious, about black men and black people. It is really extraordinary. After all, the rhetoric of fatherhood and responsibility is standard fare in black churches and in speeches by black community leaders, as it has been all these long years. It's nothing Bill Cosby hasn't said a thousand times before, or Jesse Jackson, or Al Sharpton, or for that matter Louis Farrakhan, Old Scratch himself. Anybody who's actually been around the black community, even a little bit, knows that it is a small-c conservative community in many ways, highly religious, very down on crime and drugs.
What turns out is that a black presidential nominee is in a win-win situation: he can "raise the comfort level" (Jesse Jackson's phrase) with the white voters while simultaneously showing the black voters the vast potential for uplift that a black president will provide. He can show all parties that a black president will be even more substantially positive for society that just being an entry in the history books, and even more than just being a "positive role model." But meanwhile we will be subjected to this unintentionally racist commentary: "He's criticizing the black community, in order to reassure whites" that he's not too...what?
It's even worse with Michelle Obama, who the Republicans apparently confuse with Eryka Badu. What's the difference? She's sitting there in her big wicker chair with her beret and sunglasses, giving us the black power salute. Even more than most candidates' spouses she will have to be careful to criticize no one, but I think that she can also take a lesson from her husband's Father's Day speech. Farrakhan talks about the black leader who is "too black, too strong" (I know about that from listening to my old Public Enemy albums). But telegraph that strength in a message of uplift, and guess what conservatives? The center will be cheering the Obamas on, and the GOP will appear to be...what?

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Cheney vs. Miranda

Yesterday was the 42nd anniversary of Miranda vs. Arizona, a decision of the Warren Supreme Court in 1966. The Court ruled that statements made under interrogation are admissible only if the prosecution can show that the defendant was informed of his right to consul, and of his right to refuse self-incrimination, prior to the interrogation. The ruling came after a legal movement formed in response to police interrogation practices that were widely perceived as brutal (the source of the slang term "the third degree"), but they were grounded in the 5th and 6th Amendments to the Constitution (part of the Bill of Rights), and in the broader Writ of Habeas Corpus, which states that police must show reason ("due cause") to hold or interrogate anyone.
This week the Court ruled that prisoners in Guantanamo Bay have a legal right to access to federal courts, a blow to the Bush Administration which has tried to make the case that the prisoners have no legal rights at all. But here's the real relationship between Miranda and Guantanamo: conservatives have always despised Miranda. (In fact conservative theorists even question the Bill of Rights.) Conservatives like Dick Cheney have been standing around at cocktail parties for the past 42 years deploring this legal curtailment of the prerogatives of local police to beat confessions out of people. Nor is this any kind of secret, or "right-wing conspiracy." Just ask them. They've been positively full-throated about it, all these years.
That, in turn, tells us all we need to know about the Bush Administration's aggressive posture on interrogations of "terror suspects," as well as the Orwellian "Patriot Act" that codifies domestic surveillance. All of the rhetoric of a "war on terror" was used, here as elsewhere, as a way to bum's-rush the public into accepting a radical conservative agenda. The real target has always been habeas corpus itself. 9/11 was seized upon right away as something that could be used to further the conservative philosophy of the administration. Remember, we got through World War II without systematically torturing prisoners. Imagine the hypocrisy of these people. Or no, you don't have to imagine it: it's laying bare now for all to see.

Friday, June 13, 2008

"Ageist"? Try Again.

Watch out for a little piece of gotcha judo I noticed some conservative commentators working up this week. The idea is that anytime anybody criticizes John McCain as "out of touch," or "confused" about anything, they're "speaking in code" and really mean that he's too old. (For the record, I do not think that a vigorous person in their 70s is too old for the presidency. That seems a superficiality of our tedious youth culture to me.) Well, no. Specifically people have been hammering McCain for his repeated confusions of who are the Sunnis and who are the Shia, and for his apparently quite considered statements that he thinks American troops might be garrisoned in Iraq for decades on end like they are in Germany, Japan, and elsewhere. Both the slip and the attitude strike me as confused and out of touch. Two ways in which people are often wrong are by being confused (unappreciative of the complexities and complications of a difficult region of the world) and out of touch (unaware that America's post-WWII superpower role is no longer serving the national interest). Some groups that I've noticed being confused and out of touch are foreign policy hawks, reactionary nationalist jingos, and career military people. A lot of them are young and gung-ho actually, that can be part of the problem with their judgement. These are three groups that, for somewhat varying reasons, are of the mind-set that international problems are in general amenable to military solutions. Old empires have a way of drifting into that mind-set when they become, you know, out of touch and confused. I'm not going to stop stating my opinion that he's confused and out of touch because you accuse me of denigrating him as an old fogey. I don't think that he is an old fogey.
Of course critics of Obama have the same sort of problem. African-Americans have a very understandable reflex to hear criticism of blacks as racist. That's an easy theory to fall back on. (After all, some of the critics are racist.) We already saw that in the primaries when the (demonstrably non-racist) Clintons were smeared for daring to treat Obama as a formidable opponent. For example I was struck that there seemed to be the suggestion that mentioning Jesse Jackson, just as such, was obviously race-baiting. Really? I thought Jesse Jackson was one of the heroes of the Democratic Party, myself.
Be that as it may, there's going to be a whole lot of criticizing of McCain, and a whole lot of criticizing of Obama. It's called an election. Don't kid yourself that somebody running for president shouldn't have to take a pounding. They should.

Another Question for McCain

I'm a big fan of NYT columnist Paul Krugman, and he has another excellent column in today's NYT. He points out that after the Reagan victory in 1980, and especially since the Republican takeover of Congress in 1994, the Food and Drug Administration has been shrunk in terms of resources and personnel, and headed by former lobbyists for Big Agriculture and particularly the meat industry. In fact, meat producers who wanted to voluntarily inspect their own meat for disease were actually prevented from doing so by the FDA during the current administration. This is telling commentary in the context of this weeks' massive demonstrations in South Korea against a new agreement to allow the import of American beef into that country.
All of this suggests another question for Senator McCain. Although he is currently trying to distance himself from the Bush Administration on environmental issues, using energy policy as his chief talking point, Democrats would do well to remember that Senator McCain is one of the principal, longstanding advocates for western ranching interests. As such, his record on environmental regulations, especially those effecting the cattle industry and ranching in general, is something close to perfect: perfectly bad, from either an environmentalist or a public health point of view. My point in discussing that today is not just to point out that this is deplorable, but to continue the project of developing talking points for the campaign. McCain has deep ties to cattle ranchers, who have supported him with serious money for many years. So ask him what he's going to do about meat safety. And while we're at it, maybe we might want to ask him about what sort of foreign policy turns a long-standing ally like South Korea against us as well.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Basic Taking Point on Iraq

This is best kept as brief as possible. When the point is good, make it and then "don't just do something, stand there," as Dean Atchison once instructed his diplomats. Here is the basic question on the war in Iraq: what is the war aim? What is the application of military force meant to accomplish, and when will we know that that aim has been achieved?
Meanwhile, it is unlikely that any American president will precipitously pull out of Iraq if the consensus was that such a withdrawal would trigger a humanitarian catastrophe. So the question is, do we want a President who is hawkish and vows "I will never surrender," or do we want a President who recognizes that the situation is toxically bad and that we need to get out as soon as we reasonably can?
And now return to the original question.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Obama's Veep

My view is clear enough to my legions of faithful readers, I think The People have spoken and Senator Clinton has been voted in to the veep slot. However the ultimate choice is Senator Obama's to make, and he needs to consider his options and he might not agree with me about the political imperatives of the situation. The process of choosing a vice-presidential running mate involves an enormous number of variables. It is critical for the campaign but the candidate also must be able to assume the presidency. Today we're seeing the preliminary discussions of "the list" in the media, so I'll join in with my discussion/ranking, but you know I'm going to end up with Clinton in the #1 rank as best choice; today's discussion is about everybody else.
First there's a group I think of as the Usual Democratic Party Suspects, Evan Bayh, Joe Biden, Chris Dodd, and Tom Daschle. None of these look like strong prospects to me. The only one who I'll include on the list is Bayh, but aside from a steady moderate-liberal political profile, his best asset is he's a very midwestern, white-bread character, a Clinton supporter and the scion of a Democratic dynasty in the Upper Midwest, which is indeed crucial territory for Obama. Biden is too old, too loud, and too Old Washington, if he had a conservative cachet he might bring "balance," but he doesn't. Obama will need his help as chairman of the Judiciary Committee when John Paul Stevens retires. Dodd and Daschle are much too mild and soft-spoken for the gladiatorial aspects of the Veep role in the national campaign. In Daschle's case, it's true, there's a bit of "Minnesota nice" sidewinder under the mildness, but he has the onus of having been ignominiously ousted from his Senate seat by a Republican challenger. Only Bayh makes the cut from the old Democratic bench.
Mike Bloomberg likes to be a chronic mentionee, and he certainly has exceeded all expectations as Republican mayor of New York (although the second crane incident might count as a substantial failure). He would supposedly help with the Jewish vote, where Obama supposedly has problems. The two problems with that argument are a) Leibermenschen notwithstanding, the Jewish vote continues to be largely Democratic in any event, and the conservative minority may have crested with the conservative movement in general, and b) Obama's problems with white working class, rural, and union voters is a bigger problem, and those folks are mostly Protestant and unimpressed with fancy New Yorkers. But really the decisive argument here is the same one that applies to the rebellious Republican Chuck Hagel: a campaign that needs to unify a fractious Democratic Party isn't going to go with a Republican. (Not that Hagel would bolt on the GOP anyway, he's not that kind of guy.) I think we can safely rule both Bloomberg and Hagel out.
You have the military men, Wesley Clark and Jim Webb. On the one hand, national security voters are going to go with McCain, that's his main identity, so you don't want to throw too much good money after bad chasing voters you're not going to get anyway. On the other hand, the McCain campaign will keep national security in the air, mentioning it every day from now until November, so it might be a good thing to have someone who can handle all the counterpunching that will have to be done over that issue. Clark, though, is not seen as a leader (anymore) in military circles, after his close association with the Clinton administration and his subsequent runs for the Democratic nomination. Liberal generals are wonderful creatures but somewhat exotic to the voters, and they are seen negatively by the "support the troops" crowd. By all reports Clark is also a bit too much the star of his own movie for the veep slot (like Bloomberg, he'll make sure he's on the list if you don't). Cross him off. Webb does get on the list. He's a New Democrat, a war hero in Vietnam, a political champion who won a Senate seat for the Democrats in Virginia, now a bellwether state. Personally I don't care for his aggrieved soldier routine (he can't admit to his homeboys that Vietnam was a mistake), but he would be a help to Obama going up against McCain.
There are the political warhorses Ed Rendell and John Edwards. I like Edwards a lot more now than I did in 2004, I like the militant populist Edwards who's going to take the fight to the corporatists. However, he was the veep candidate on the losing ticket last time and that makes it hard to justify choosing him again. That's also a hard choice to justify because he came in a lagging third this time around: why pick him if you're not going to pick Clinton? And then there was that reporting about the troubles that the Kerry campaign had with him. He certainly could help with the downscale white demographic, but I think we can cross him off. Rendell is a little better of a prospect, but he gets you Pennsylvania and that's all that he gets you. National voters won't remember that he was a loyal Clintonista, but they will hear his strong East Coast urban accent. Obama can do better, even if he wants a Clinton supporter.
Can Obama choose a woman other than Clinton? Maybe yes. I think it's hard to gauge whether a woman veep is more asset or liability, but the demographics of the Democratic Party suggest that it might be a good idea. I'm gratified to see Kathleen Sebelius of Kansas, who I've been touting on this blog since last year, emerging as the most-mentioned Woman Who's Not Clinton. After her comes Claire McCaskill of Missouri. A sleeper is Kathleen Kennedy Townsend, although I admit that I don't know if she'd be available (guy in my pajamas that I am). Some women are going to be on the list for sure, and at the moment the buzz seems to put Sebelius above McCaskill, although it's true that Missouri turns out to be an important battleground. On the other hand if the Dems could put Kansas into play that would be an unexpected headache for the GOP. Both are midwesterners which is good, both are young which is good.
My #2 on The List, though, has to be Bill Richardson. His assets are extensive: forget about the problem with the Hispanic voters (a major issue); no more problem about lack of foreign policy expertise; New Mexico is yours; he is someone who is seen as both a veteran Clintonista and someone who stood up to the Clinton machine for Obama, as well as a candidate in his own right, the only other one who rose up out of Seven Dwarfs status in the primaries. If he's not the veep, he'll be at the top of the list for Secretary of State.
So, my ranking: #5, Claire McCaskill; #4, tie between Evan Bayh and Jim Webb; #3, Kathleen Sebelius; #2, Bill Richardson, and the #1 prospect for Veep is Hillary Clinton. You heard it here millionth.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Put Clinton on the Ticket

Today is Tuesday June 3rd, the day of the last primaries, Montana and South Dakota. My 83-year-old mother called me this afternoon to ask about the superdelegates. She and my dad voted for Obama in the Ohio primary, but today she was under the impression that Clinton had won the popular vote, and that the superdelegates might swing to Obama anyway, which rightly struck her as dubious. We talked awhile and I assured her that Obama was going to be the nominee fair and square. (It's true that the Florida and Michigan fiasco puts the whole thing under something of a cloud, and that's got to be a terrible thing for the Clintons.) But later when G. and I turned on MSNBC I was really struck by a number I saw. It was at 6:30PM. The popular vote numbers (I'm not clear on how these were calculated, assuming FL and MI were left out) were 17,428,810 for Obama, and 17,425,541 for Clinton. That's a difference of 3,269 votes out of over 34.8 million cast! That's a statistical tie. Two points for my Democratic, Obama-supporting friends: 1) As Democrats, we're supposed to be people who respect small-"d" democracy, consensus politics. I'm not impressed with your dislike of Clinton, if you dislike her, when your sentiments are put up against over 17 million people, half of the Democratic primary electorate, who voted for her. Are you with the people, or with yourself? 2) Some of my friends are saying that this election is going to be an easy thing. Obama doesn't need to make painful political calculations. Think again. This one is going to be hard-fought, and the Democrats should have won the last two, remember, but they screwed them both up. We must not leave anything to chance. As to the discussion of Clinton's statement today that she would be available (I don't have her exact words) for the VP slot, I saw this as more humble than arrogant. After all, of course she's a prospect for the VP slot, let's be real. But in stating her availability, she was saying to Obama, "OK, you can reject me. I've put my cards on the table. The decision is yours to make, you know I won't reject you." She was precisely not playing games. Put her on the ticket.