Like the hapless characters in Waiting For Godot, America sits and watches in fascination as the Democratic nomination race grinds into yet another calendar season. At this point, it is looking like it may well go unresolved all the way to the Democratic National Convention in late August.
But it doesn't have to be this way. Nancy Pelosi and all the other undeclared superdelegates have it within their power to call "Palomino!" on this whole process. Because there are enough of them left to swing the contest to either Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama. They should do so now.
Mind you, I'm not calling on them to do so for either candidate in particular. I think it's up to them to decide who to back. But by almost all available math (feel free to play this game at home, courtesy of CNN), neither candidate will be able to rack up enough pledged delegates to secure the nomination in the remaining contests. So it's going to be up to the superdelegates no matter what. That's just a fact, no matter who you support in the race.
At this point, I would venture to guess there are a lot of Democratic voters out there who would agree with the statement: "I just want it to be over." They see the damage this prolonged contest could have on the Democratic Party itself, to say nothing of how it weakens whoever the eventual nominee will be against John McCain this November.
But, again, it doesn't have to be this way. As it stands now (depending on which source you rely on), Hillary is up by about 30 or 40 superdelegates. Barack has a lead in pledged delegates of over 150. But there are approximately 350 superdelegates who have not yet publicly stated who they are going to vote for. They could swing the contest to either candidate. Eventually they're going to have to -- at the convention, if it goes on that long. They should do so immediately, instead of dragging it out for another five months.
And the more prominent the superdelegate, the more the pressure should be on them to do so forthwith. Nationally-known superdelegates' endorsements carry a lot more weight than some guy you've never heard of from Kalamazoo. But the longer they wait, the less influence they'll have -- which should be an incentive for them to prove how much of a "party leader" they really are.
[Paging Al Gore... Paging Al Gore... It's the Democratic electorate on the phone, wondering where you stand....]
I even saw an interesting proposal to have a June "superdelegate primary" -- where they'd all have to "vote" for their candidate ahead of the convention. While this may present too many procedural problems to actually happen, I think it is imperative that by the time the last primary is over, every superdelegate should have announced who they intend to vote for at the convention.
Because it is time for all men and women to come to the aid of their party. Please, superdelegates, think of the party. Do what you have to do -- support whichever candidate you please -- but get off the fence. Now. End this sadistic and masochistic race once and for all.
Barack Obama deserves an honorable mention for giving a very impressive speech about race this week. Even if he does not become president, his speech was one for the history books. So he deserves special recognition for such an impressive performance.
But in keeping with my opening thoughts, this week's Most Impressive Democrat Of The Week award goes (in a tie) to Bill Richardson and John Murtha. Richardson endorsed Barack Obama today, and Murtha endorsed Clinton earlier in the week. Both, it should be noted, are Democratic superdelegates. They have shown the rest of the undecided superdelegates what needs to be done, right now. So for standing up for their respective candidates, they will share this week's MIDOTW award.
Well done, Congressman Murtha and Governor Richardson!
"The hottest places in Hell are reserved for those who in time of moral crisis preserve their neutrality."
-- John Fitzgerald Kennedy, misquoting Dante
John Edwards wasted everyone's time last night with his appearance on Jay Leno's Tonight Show. OK, maybe I'm just annoyed that I wrote about his possible endorsement announcement this week (twice!) and he showed me up to be nothing more than a rumor-monger. Sigh.
But seriously, after watching his performance on television, I couldn't help but think: "What a waste of perfectly good electrons!"
Leno didn't help, either. After running teaser ads all week long about how "maybe" Edwards will tell us who he's supporting, Jay didn't even ever directly pose the question to Edwards. Talk about bait and switch!
But the main fault is Edwards'. When politicians appear on gabfests like Leno's, they usually tell them in advance what to ask and what not to ask (this is the realm of softball questions, and should in no way be mistaken for a journalistic interview). So Jay not asking him wasn't really Jay's fault. But what other possible reason would Edwards have for appearing before a nationwide audience right now? He doesn't have a book or a movie to plug, he's not launching some program for the poor, he basically had a whole lot of nothing to say. So why even bother?
Here is as close as they got, after Leno asked whether, when he dropped out, he expected the contest would go on so long:
EDWARDS: "...between the other two, Senator Clinton and Senator Obama, what I thought, based on my experience was, the likelihood was, if I got out, one of them would start pulling ahead and I thought that would be good for the Democrats and help strengthen us for the fall. I did not expect what happened."
Got that? Not having a clear nominee would conversely be bad for Democrats and help weaken them for the general election. So what is he going to do about it himself?
LENO: This is something about the Democrats -- and we joke about it a lot -- but they always seem to kind of shoot themselves in the foot... I mean, it seems to me the two candidates are probably doing worse damage to each other than the Republicans. What do you do about that as a party?
EDWARDS: "Well, I don't think there's an easy answer. I mean, I think it's a close race, they're both fighting for the nomination. I mean, the key to this is to unite the party..."
[EDWARDS praises both candidates for a while, ending with:]
"...either of them, I think, will be a great candidate and I think either one will be a great president."
After jokes about this and that, Edwards left the door wide (WIDE) open for himself to accept a job in either candidate's administration, and even refused to rule out his making another run at the White House.
If the party needs to unite, and if only one candidate is going to be our nominee, then what exactly is Edwards doing to help move the party towards unity? Was Edwards' whole appearance a job application for a cabinet position? Sheesh. I lost a lot of respect for Edwards after watching this performance, I have to say.
In fact, I'll go further. John Edwards not only deserves the Most Disappointing Democrat Of The Week, he also deserves to be locked in a room by union supporters, with Pete Seeger blasted into his ears at high volume in an endless loop, singing the old union song "Which Side Are You On?" -- until he emerges, ready to publicly endorse one candidate or another.
[You can try to contact John Edwards on his now-defunct campaign site to let him know what you think of his performance.]
OK, enough of that. On to this week's Friday Talking Points!
Volume 24 (3/21/08)
The sixth year of Bush's Iraq mistake
Our adventure in Iraq is now five years old. This grim anniversary came and went this week, without much attention in the mainstream media. The media, for the past few months, have all but dropped Iraq as a story. The American people are tired of hearing about it, they reason, therefore it's not "news" any more.
Democrats need to remind everyone whenever the subject comes up that we are now starting the sixth year of war, with no end in sight.
"We are now beginning the sixth year of war in Iraq. This war has gone on much longer than Republicans told us it would, and there is still no end in sight. I just hope in the future we aren't commemorating the tenth or fifteenth year of war in Iraq... or the 100th, if John McCain gets his wish... and I think the American people have spoken loudly in telling us that the sixth year in Iraq should be our last year in Iraq."
Four thousand dead American soldiers
A worrisome poll out shows that fewer and fewer Americans even know how many Americans have died in Iraq. Another grim anniversary is right around the corner, and because of this rampant ignorance, Democrats need to remind everyone of this number, in support and honor of the brave troops who have given their lives for this misguided cause.
"Four thousand American servicemen and women have now given the ultimate sacrifice in a war that we never should have entered in the first place. Four thousand sons, daughters, wives, and husbands have now been buried during this war. Four thousand. Never forget these noble Americans."
McCain doesn't even know who we're fighting
So John McCain wants to be elected because he has foreign policy experience coming out of his wazoo? Really? Then why, after five years of war, does he not know who our enemies are on the battlefield? I know these things, and I'm just some guy with a computer -- I'm not running to be our nation's leader or anything.
McCain made this mistake multiple times it should be noted, even after Joe Lieberman corrected him on camera (what are friends for, eh, Joe?). McCain is apparently unaware that the Shi'ite government in Iran is not supplying the Sunni "Al Qaeda in Iraq" with weapons.
This one is pretty easy, and deserves one heck of a lot more media attention than it has been getting.
"John McCain can't tell the difference between Sunni and Shi'ite in Iraq... and this man wants to be our president?!? I think voters will realize that anyone this misinformed -- or this senile -- would be dangerous to have as Commander-in-Chief."
Bush fights for corruption [part 1]
Abraham Lincoln called war profiteers "worse than traitors." Franklin Delano Roosevelt spoke against "war millionaires." Harry Truman used the word "treason" to describe war profiteers.
George Bush, to no one's surprise, enables them. And he needs to be called on the carpet for doing so. The White House is currently fighting any questioning of a gigantic loophole in U.S. law (which they mysteriously inserted) big enough to drive a Halliburton truck full of Blackwater employees through. This rule exempts all "contracts to be performed outside the United States" from a rule intended to expose contractor fraud. How convenient.
"The White House needs to explain why it wants to protect war profiteers from wasting more than the already unaccounted for billions of dollars in Iraq, by specifically exempting contracts performed outside the U.S. from federal anti-fraud rules. Why is President Bush making it easier for contractors to defraud the American government? Rather than 'the buck stops here,' Bush seems to have a sign on his desk reading 'help my Republican buddies steal from the American taxpayer.'"
Bush fights for corruption [part 2]
Voices are calling for the resignation of Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Alphonso Jackson, since he apparently takes into consideration party loyalty when handing out HUD money. This is so corrupt it stinks to high heaven, but (as usual) the mainstream media is largely silent. Read about the whole disgusting mess for yourself.
"We call on President Bush to immediately fire Secretary Jackson, or to accept his resignation the way he did with Attorney General Alberto Gonzales. It is one thing to hire and fire lawyers at the Justice Department based on whether they were sufficiently Republican enough, but it is quite another to hand out taxpayer money based on party affiliation. If Republicans don't want their party to be permanently branded the "party of corruption," they need to join with us in demanding Jackson's resignation from President Bush as well.
Bush makes things up out of thin air [part 4,829]
Dan Froomkin's "White House Watch" column has a good rundown of this one. President Bush is apparently ignoring his own National Intelligence Estimate on Iran, in favor of just making stuff up when he feels like it.
This would be laughable if it weren't such a deadly game of "chicken" to be playing. Bush recently said that Iran "declared they want to have a nuclear weapon to destroy people." Only problem, Iran has never said any such thing. When asked about it later, a White House spokesman said he was "shorthanding," which is apparently Washington-speak for "making things up off the top of his head."
This, again, is more evidence that Bush's reality is just not the reality the rest of us share, and are two separate things altogether. Which needs (yet again) pointing out.
"As Democrats, we hope and pray every day that America gets through the next election and swears in a Democrat to the Oval Office -- without President Bush starting another war in the meantime, based on (to put it politely) 'false intelligence.' Two wars at a time is enough, Mr. President. Stop trying to start another one with Iran."
See, Bush actually wants low poll numbers
Bush's Press Secretary Dana Perino said some amusing things recently as well. First, she compared herself to a duck. To the question "How do you stay so calm?" Perino replied:
"Well, maybe I might look like it on the outside sometimes. But it's like a duck. You look really calm above the water, but underneath, you're churning."
Oooo-kay. She also "churned" out this gem this week, speaking on Iraq, and Bush and Cheney's relationship to the polls:
"Both the president and the vice president have long believed, and it's a part of what has made them the leaders that they are, which is not to chase popularity polls but to hold themselves to a standard that requires people not to like them."
Um, OK, Dana. You sure you don't want to go lie down or something? This one's pathetically easy for Democrats to knock down, should they feel the urge:
"Bush spokeswoman Dana Perino apparently believes that Bush and Cheney hold themselves to a standard, quote, that requires people not to like them, unquote. That certainly explains why only about three in ten people do in every recent poll I've seen! Maybe Bush needs a new Press Secretary. I hear Socks The Cat is available...."
Chris Weigant blogs at: ChrisWeigant.com
Full archives of FTP columns: FridayTalkingPoints.com