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2/18/2008
FORMER FEC COMMISSIONER BRAD SMITH ON WHY OBAMA WILL PROBABLY TAKE FEDERAL FINANCING

I cross posted my “McCain Proving Himself a Canny Campaigner” article over at RedState and former FEC Commissioner and a great friend of bloggers Brad Smith was kind enough to respond to my argument that Obama would be crazy to forgo privately financing his campaign in the general election.

Smith alerted bloggers back in 2005 to some of the more onerous requirements of McCain-Feingold while sounding the alarm over how the FEC might interpret the law. So I was pleased to receive such expert instruction on the ins and outs of campaign finance from someone intimately familiar with the process.

First, Brad left this comment:

The Tax Subsidy May be worth it by Brad Smith

The tax subsidy for the general election, if the candidates take it, is about $85 million. It is a MUCH better deal for the general election than for the primary. That’s why even Bush took the general election subsidy.

Think about it - $85 million, to spend between the end of the GOP convention on September 4 and the election on November 4. That’s a healthy $1.42 million per day. By comparison, through the end of 2007, Obama had been campaigning for over a year and spent about $85 million.

Additionally, because the subsidy comes with no strings attached, there are no fundraising costs. Typically, fundraising costs can eat up about 20% or more of the funds raised. In other words, to get $85 million to spend, you would have to raise more like $100 million. Obama’s total amount raised in all of 2007 was just over $100 million. At this point, he is raising about $1 million a day, but is probably spending about that much, too. Let’s suppose he wraps up the nomination after March 4 (a dubious proposition), he will still need to spend probably $300K a day through the summer. If the Democratic battle extends all the way to the convention, or even June, Obama will likely have to devote all his fundraising to the primary.

Now, you can start raising the general election money now, true, but Obama is still battling Hillary for the nomination, and he’ll need to raise other money to stay on the airwaves between the time he might wrap up the nomination and the Democratic Convention ending on August 28.

And it gets tougher. Even subsidized candidates can raise money for a “GELAC” account, “General Election Legal and Accounting.” This is privately raised but will typically total about $20 million. McCain can certainly raise that for the general. So McCain would have to match that $20-30 million McCain raises for his GELAC, plus the $100 million for campaign expenditures, just to match a subsidized McCain in the General Election.

In short, it is not at all clear that Obama can raise enough to battle for the Dem nomination AND fund his GELAC account AND raise still more for the general in an amount in excess of $100 million, which would be about what he would need to have parity in the general election with a subsidized McCain.

In the end, I don’t think this will matter a whole lot.

Brad Smith
Professor of Law
Capital University Law School

My response:

Thanks for your input, Brad by Rick Moran

But if Obama can raise $30 million a month - mostly from an online donor base - I would think that he would be stupid to limit himself to the $85 million in federal funds that would be available to him after July 1 when he might have $100 million by that date if he chooses to go the private route.

This is assuming he wraps up the nomination in April.

He would then have an additional two months of fund raising before the convention. Is there any reason he couldn’t raise $150 million?

I see your point about overhead but we’re talking money raised in amounts undreamed before. The temptation may just be too great.

But Brad pointed out one salient point I had not considered; monies for the general election couldn’t be spent until after the conventions:

He’s raising a million a day for the primary by Brad Smith

The federal funds for the general are not available to him until the end of the Democratic Convention on August 28. Until then, he has to raise money privately. Assuming, as I calculated, he really needs about $120 million from the end of August to election day to be competitive with a subsidized McCain, he has to raise about $2 million a day, minus anything he can save up for the general election before then.

Meanwhile, before the end of August he must raise money to fund his primary battles and his expenses of staying visible etc. through the convention? Plus he’ll have the hassle of raising funds, taking up time that could go to other events. You’re talking about him probably raising another $200 million total, maybe more, between now and November. I’m not saying he can’t, but I’m not sure he can, either. That’s nearly double what he raised in his first year of campaigning.

Even Bush and Kerry took the subsidy for the general. There’s a first time for everything, but I’m not sure that Obama’s fundraising capacity is really that great.

Another way to look at it is this: Barack has to keep spending now to fight Hillary. So he’s got to be spending more than McCain. Beyond that, between now and the general election, can he outraise McCain by $100 million? He’s not close to that big an advantage for the last year - why can he do it over the next 8 and a half months?

Brad Smith
Professor of Law
Capital University Law School

Brad Smith makes a very compelling case for Obama taking federal funds rather than trying to raise money for the general election outside of those limits.

By the way, Brad is also the Chairman and Co-Founder of The Center for Competitive Politics, a non profit group:

CCP’s mission, through legal briefs, studies, historical and constitutional analyses, and media communication is to educate the public on the actual effects of money in politics, and the results of a more free and competitive electoral process.

I expect most of us who blog will be bookmarking this site for its potential as a vital reference for information on campaign finance.

By: Rick Moran at 12:47 pm | Permalink | Comments & Trackbacks (2)

MAKE WASHINGTON’S BIRTHDAY A NATIONAL HOLIDAY AGAIN
CATEGORY: History


Emanuel Gottlieb Leutze’s famous painting of Washington crossing the Delaware River.

This is the story of what could be the greatest day of the greatest American who ever lived. It originally appeared in The American Thinker on February 22, 2005 and was the very first article I wrote for that fine publication.

Today is President’s day - a day as my colleague at AT Ari Kaufman points out that “not only do schools go on as scheduled, but so do many state and government offices. This is not surprising in 2008, and many revel in it.”

Indeed, as the very significance of President’s Day fades out of existence, the need to remember our greatest president, George Washington, by recognizing his birthday as a true national holiday becomes even more urgent.

If any American deserves this singular honor, it is Washington. Quite simply, there would not be a United States of America without him. And even if there were, it would certainly be a much different place.

****************************************************

This article originally appeared in The American Thinker.

The year was 1783. While formal hostilities had virtually ceased between the Crown and the American colonies, peace talks continued to drag on in London. The Congress was broke and in serious debt even though the Articles of Confederation, which required individual states to contribute funds to the Congress, had been approved two years earlier.

The Continental Army was restless. Many of its officers hadn’t been paid in months. Promises made by Congress at the time of their enlistment regarding reimbursement for food and clothing, pensions, and a pledge to give the officers half pay for life were either not being honored or were rumored to be withdrawn. Petitions by groups of officers to Congress asking them to redress these and other grievances either went unanswered or were brushed aside.

As a result of these indignities, a cabal of officers headed up by Colonel Walter Stewart and Major John Armstrong, an aide to George Washington’s chief rival Horatio Gates, were making plans to march to Philadelphia at the head of their men to force Congress to deal with their demands. The implication was clear; if Congress would not address their concerns, the men would enforce their will at the point of a bayonet.

The plotters believed that General Washington would be forced by their actions to become a reluctant participant in a military coup against the government. They believed that by presenting a united front composed of the senior officers in the army, Washington would have no choice but to back them.

To that end, they scheduled a meeting on March 10 of all general and field officers. With the invitation to the meeting, a fiery letter was circulated calling on the soldiers not to disarm in peace and, if the war were to continue, to disband and leave the country to the tender mercies of the British Army.

Washington got wind of the meeting and was deeply troubled. He issued a General Order canceling the gathering and instead, called for another meeting on March 15 ” of representatives of all the regiments to decide how to attain the just and important object in view.” The next day, another letter was circulated by the plotters that implied by issuing the General Order, Washington agreed with their position.

With the army teetering on the edge of revolt and the future of the United States as a republic in the balance, Washington stood before the assembled officers and began to speak. He started by saying he sympathized with their plight, that he had written countless letters to Congress reminding them of their responsibilities to the soldiers, and begged the officers not to take any action that would “lessen the dignity and sully the glory you have hitherto maintained.”

At that point, Washington reached into his pocket and withdrew a letter from a Congressman outlining what the government would do to address the soldiers grievances. But something was wrong. Washington started reading the letter but stopped abruptly. Then, with a sense of the moment and flair for the dramatic not equaled until Ronald Reagan became President, Washington slowly reached into his coat pocket and withdrew a pair of spectacles. There were gasps in the room as most of the officers had never seen their beloved General display such a sign of physical weakness in public. As he put the glasses on, Washington said “Gentlemen, you’ll permit me to put on my spectacles, as I have grown not only old but almost blind in the service of my country.”

Witnesses say that the officers almost to a man began to weep. This powerful reminder of the nearly eight years of service together and their shared sacrifices and hardships won the day. The revolt died then and there.

It could be argued that this was the greatest day of the greatest American who ever lived. And the fact that we no longer officially celebrate Washington’s birthday on February 22 as a national holiday is a travesty that makes this and other deeds of George Washington seem like mere footnotes on the pages of history.

In fact, the third Monday in February is still designated as Washington’s Birthday, not “President’s Day” as it has come to be known. As Matthew Spaulding of the Heritage Foundation points out, several times, legislators have introduced legislation to direct all federal government entities to refer to the holiday as George Washington’s Birthday but to no avail. President Bush could issue an executive order to that effect but has failed to do so.

This doesn’t address the issue of celebrating February 22-no matter what day of the week it falls on-as a national holiday. The argument that no other American is so honored just doesn’t hold water. The fact is, there wouldn’t be any other Americans to honor if it weren’t for the character, the purposefulness, and the determination of George Washington.

For long stretches during the Revolution, Washington was the government; the only recognizable entity for people to rally around. Couple that with Washington’s superhuman efforts in molding and shaping the Presidency and then exhibiting the sublime understanding to step down after two terms to cement the foundation of the new republic to the rule of law and not of men, and you have a strong case to make an exception to the rule of honoring individual Americans.

Currently, Martin Luther King is the only individual American who is honored with his own holiday. And the Fourth of July and Veterans Day are the only federal holidays covered under the Monday Holiday Law passed in 1968 that are celebrated on the day of the week regardless of whether or not it falls on a Monday (Thanksgiving’s date changes yearly. Christmas and New Years day may be celebrated on either Friday or Monday depending on what day of the week they fall on in a given year). Designating February 22 as a national holiday to celebrate the life of someone called “the indispensable man” of the American founding by his outstanding biographer James Thomas Flexner would seem to be fitting and proper.

We owe so much to Washington that it seems almost trivial to deny him this singular honor.

By: Rick Moran at 8:36 am | Permalink | Comments & Trackbacks (7)

2/16/2008
HILLARY CONCEDES WISCONSIN

Hillary Clinton’s campaign is pulling out of Wisconsin a day early according to press reports:

Democrat Hillary Rodham Clinton has scaled back her Wisconsin campaign schedule by a full day, and is now planning to leave the state after Monday morning instead of Tuesday morning.

The move suggests the campaign does not think it can overtake rival Barack Obama here. Obama has already campaigned in the state Tuesday night, Wednesday, Friday, and today. He also has single events planned for Sunday (Kaukauna) and Monday (Beloit).

While the two have exchanged hard-hitting TV ads here, Obama began airing ads a week earlier and has spent much more on TV.

Today is Clinton’s first day of campaigning in the state, with an event in Kenosha and a state party dinner in Milwaukee, where Obama also will appear. Clinton will campaign Sunday in De Pere, Wausau and Madison, and is expected to do one event in the state Monday morning before leaving.

All the polls that have come out in the last week show Clinton within 4-5 points of Obama. Why then, is she pulling up stakes and abandoning the state when she’s within striking distance?

Obama has won the last 8 primaries by double digits - the last three by margins of 3-1 and 4-1. Perhaps Clinton’s internal polling is showing another double digit disaster looming and rather than waste resources on a lost cause like Wisconsin, better to spend time and money in Ohio and Texas where she has put her campaign out on a limb by saying she needs to win both states to stay viable.

If, as expected, she loses Wisconsin - and loses big - she will have two weeks to watch Obama work his magic in Texas and Ohio. She will be outspent and outgunned everywhere by an Obama organization that suddenly can do no wrong. It is very possible that her own double digit poll leads in both states will vanish and by March 4 Hillary Clinton will be fighting for her political life.

Can she hold off this juggernaut anywhere? It seems that as each succeeding contest moves to the fore in the Democratic race, Obama’s numbers skyrocket and hers plummets. It’s as if once voters start to concentrate on a race, they abandon Hillary like yesterday’s stale donuts and attach themselves to Obama’s crusade.

Frankly, unless she can level the playing field, she’s toast. And by level the field I mean she has to find a way to bring Obama’s campaign back down to earth from that elevated, ethereal plane it currently occupies - somewhere between a religious movement and a revolutionary army.

Otherwise, the same thing will happen in Texas and Ohio that has happened in Wisconsin and elsewhere; Obama will play do his pied piper thing and the Democrats in those states will follow him to the polls.

How do you defeat a political phenomenon? If you find out, you better tell Hillary quickly because she’ s running out of states - and time.

By: Rick Moran at 7:09 pm | Permalink | Comments & Trackbacks (9)

McCAIN PROVING HIMSELF A CANNY CAMPAIGNER

One of the biggest concerns going into the general election for Republicans has to be the massive discrepancy between the amount of money raised by Democratic candidates in the primaries - especially Barack Obama - and the amounts raised by the GOP.

For John McCain who was broke just a few short months ago, this is a matter of life and death. With a massive donor base that Obama will be able to tap anew for the general election campaign, it is quite possible that the Illinois senator would be able to double the amount raised by McCain over the course of the race. Obama corralled more than 135,000 individual donors alone in 2008 so far. This puts him well over 200,000 contributors he can call on.

How then, can McCain neutralize this huge advantage? It seems that back when McCain was a frontrunner in early 2007, he made a pledge to accept federal financing for the general election if the Democratic candidate did the same. Apparently, Barack Obama took him up on that challenge at the time. Here’s the New York Times from 3/2/07:

Senator John McCain joined Senator Barack Obama on Thursday in promising to accept a novel fund-raising truce if each man wins his party’s presidential nomination.

“Should John McCain win the Republican nomination, we will agree to accept public financing in the general election, if the Democratic nominee agrees to do the same,” Mr. Nelson [then McCain’s campaign manager] said.

A spokesman for Mr. Obama, Bill Burton, said, “We hope that each of the Republican candidates pledges to do the same.”

Mr. Burton added that if nominated Mr. Obama would “aggressively pursue an agreement” with whoever was his opponent.

Sounds cut and dried, doesn’t it? If McCain and Obama square off in the general election, both will take public financing, right?

Not so fast, says the Agent of Change in politics:

Obama’s campaign is backing away from suggestions that the Illinois senator would publicly finance his campaign in the general election, if he’s the nominee, and referring to public financing as an “option” — not as the “pledge” McCain’s campaign claims Obama made.

[snip]

I asked Burton again today if this was a “pledge,” and he repeated that it’s an “option.”

“The only reason this is an option is because we pursued the decision from the FEC. As the Clinton campaign continues to remind you, Obama is not the nominee, but this is a question we will address when he is,” he said in response to Davis’ remark.

For McCain, this has left an opening that you can drive a truck through. And he has been savaging Obama about breaking his “pledge” all week:

Hammering Senator Barack Obama for a fourth straight day, Senator John McCain said here on Friday that he expects Senator Obama to abide by his pledge use public financing for his general election if Mr. McCain does so as well.

“It was very clear to me that Senator Obama had agreed to having public financing of the general election campaign if I did the same thing,” he said after a town hall meeting here. “I made the commitment to the American people that if I was the nominee of my party, I would go the route of public financing. I expect Senator Obama to keep his word to the American people as well.”

Asked if he would use public financing even if Mr. Obama did not, he said: “If Senator Obama goes back on his commitment to the American people, then obviously we have to rethink our position. Our whole agreement was we would take public financing if he made that commitment as well. And he signed a piece of paper, I’m told, that made that commitment.”

Predictably, there are some on the left who have hit the ceiling and are beside themselves that Obama would give up an election winning advantage:

For the first time ever, the Democratic party is outraising the Republican party. The party and its candidate will have the resources to compete on a huge playing field, not just shoring up its blue state base and courting voters in swing states, but there will also be the ability to truly compete in those red states the GOP is holding on to by a thread.

This election could be the one that knocks back conservatism for ten years to a generation.

Don’t give up that advantage. This is the equivalent of the opposing coach asking the Bulls to bench Michael Jordan in his prime.

Kos decided to do a little whistling past the graveyard:

Look, no one gives a shit if Obama takes public financing or not. The Edwards campaign thought they’d get brownie points for opting in during the primary, and other than me criticizing them for it, they heard crickets. And that was among Democrats, who supposedly care about this sort of thing.

This is such a process story with zero relevance to the public that there’s no benefit to be gained by taking public financing — unless you can’t raise it as fast as your opponent. Then you do whatever you can to try and goad your opponent to join you by opting in.

A “process story?” He’s kidding himself. This attack hits Obama where it hurts the most - the idea that he’s a different kind of politician, an “Agent of Change.” How can Obama credibly make those claims if he’s playing the old game of spending massive amounts of money to get elected. People won’t care where it comes from. They’ll only see that Obama would be raising an ungodly sum of money - playing politics the old fashioned way.

McCain’s attacks are well aimed and on target. It will be interesting to see how Obama plays this. While he has not made a formal “pledge” to forgo federal financing, McCain still has him over a barrel because Obama was agreeable to the idea of public financing. Obama is trapped by his own supporter’s ideal of the candidate. To this point, he has successfully wrapped himself in a cloak of unquestioned integrity - even if living up to that standard hurts him politically. This is what his supporters expect. To do anything less will assist in their disillusionment.

And that must be McCain’s number one priority; level the race by bringing Obama back down to an earthly plane. McCain cannot win if on election day, Obama is seen as some kind of civic messiah. He must be exposed for the inexperienced, shallow thinking, ultra-liberal politician that he is.

Is there anything short of capitulation for Obama? Allah has his options:

1. Abide by the pledge and give up that moneybomb advantage. Not a chance.

2. Deny that he ever “pledged” to take public funds and weasel out of the deal. Possible.

3. Offer McCain an alternative deal which he’ll never accept because it plays too much to Obama’s advantages. See the “$150 contribution” proposal in LJ’s second post.

4. Accept the deal and shunt the moneybombs off onto 527s:

As the two campaigns dueled, people on both sides said it was possible that they would agree to accept public financing and then simply have each political party spend unlimited amounts on behalf of its candidate, including money for voter mobilization efforts and television commercials, as allowed by law.

5. Admit that he “pledged” but has to break his pledge now because he’s got a movement thing going that people want to be part of and, goshdarnit, it wouldn’t be fair to them to deny them the fun of donating. Weak, but still preferable to number one.

I think option #2 is really his only option. Whatever hit he takes politically pales in comparison to the advantage he will get by having all that Democratic cash to spend. Where McCain will be limited in going after targets of opportunity like Pennsylvania and perhaps even California, Obama, if he is fully funded, will be able to literally run a 50 state campaign. He and the various Soros-funded 527’s will bury McCain under an avalanche of ads as well as organizing a GOTV operation that the GOP will be unable to match.

Still, this line of attack by McCain proves that he’s a canny campaigner, making the most of what’s available to him in order to score political points. It’s never too early and McCain getting a head start on trying out some themes for his campaign shows that he may surprise some people with the aggressiveness of his campaign.

By: Rick Moran at 1:55 pm | Permalink | Comments & Trackbacks (6)

2/15/2008
FRIDAY NIGHT MUSINGS ABOUT NOTHING SPECIFIC
CATEGORY: General

I hate days like this. There are a lot of things I’d like to write about but really don’t have anything to add to the blogospheric cacophony. Not that I’m necessarily above stealing from other bloggers. But do you really want to read your umpteenth post for the day on how Hillary is finished (or not), or Obama is a dangerous liberal cult figure (or not), or McCain is a lying sack of turd blossoms who will destroy the Republican party (or he’s worse than that).

I know I left The Huckster off that list but is anyone writing about him at all?

Then I could have blogged about the FISA fiasco. But it just seems of late I’m suffering from “Outrage Fatigue” (a term I take pride in coining. Well…if not coining the phrase I certainly popularized it. Um…perhaps not popularized, more like “used it to its best effect.”) Try as I might, I found it hard to rant and rail against liberals for their incredibly stupid, delibertately dishonest caterwauling about interrupting the Tom Lantos memorial service with a procedural motion on FISA when it was the Speaker’s admitted fault that the motion was unavoidable under the rules and that a scheduling snafu had occurred to boot.

Did that stop the “Republicans polticize the dead” crowd from throwing a tantrum worthy of any two year old? Of course not. And to make the criticism ascend to the level of sublime irony, it seems our lefty friends forget that Google has gone public and is actually making a little money now. If I typed in the name “Paul Wellstone” and added “Memorial Service” to the search, you would come across a story so profoundly disturbing that you would be forgiven for wretching while reading it.

It seems the Democrats wanted to honor the late great Senator from Minnesota who tragically died in a plane crash a few days before the 2002 election with a “memorial service.” I put the event in quotes because whatever Democrats tried to call it, it became a hot house political rally for the left. Republican friends of Wellstone - and there were many who respected his honesty, integrity, and sincere desire to take others views into account - found themselves the target of political barbs. The White House offered to send the Vice President of the United States - he was disinvited. One speaker went so far as to demand that Norm Coleman exit the race and allow a Democrat to win.

I guess when liberals politicize a memorial service, it’s “speaking truth to power” and is perfectly acceptable. Like when Jimmy Carter alluded to government spying on Martin Luther King at Coretta King’s funeral - a veiled reference to the wiretapping controversies of the day. And Joseph Lowrey, at the same memorial service, excoriated President Bush for the Iraq War.

There have been other examples of the left using dead people like political clubs. Accusing the GOP of doing so when a simple reading of the rules would have given the lie to that meme propelled the left wingosphere beyond contempt and into the stratosphere of malicious mischief.

You can see my dilemma. Unless you can summon the appropriate amount of outrage, simply listing the transgressions of liberals for exactly that which they are taking the right to task becomes an exercise in boredom killing. Everyone knows that lefties are a bunch of hypocritical bastards with the morals of an alley cat and the brains of a marmoset. How many times can you say that and remain interesting?

There were other topics I could have written about today. Pakistan is set to elect a parliament on Monday. Musharraf has been making deals with al-Qaeda and the Taliban so quickly, he’s running out of white flags to run up Pakistani flag poles. Perhaps in spite of this, he is easily the most unpopular man in Pakistan. He envies George Bush’s approval numbers.

And yet, given that he has forbidden much international monitoring of the election, it is probable he will try to monkey with the results. He will almost certainly not try to engineer a victory for his party but rather deny the opposition a 2/3 majority which would result in his immediate and well deserved retirement. The US should condemn this election before it happens just to get a head start on the mayhem that will probably follow.

Kenya has been in the news recently as well. Not only is Obama’s good buddy Raila Odinga of the Luo tribe still winking at the violence being carried out by his supporters against the corrupt, election stealing government of President Kibaki and his Kikuyu tribe, but it now appears that the Germans of all people are offering Kenyans the opportunity to use their own power sharing agreement as the basis for a rapproachment.

I know there’s some really bad international relations joke in there but I can’t find it at the moment.

Other topics I could have written about were Lebanon (tipping toward civil war), Afghanistan (NATO is going to its grave with a whimper), Iraq (things aren’t as good or as bad as people are saying), GOP election prospects (where?), and the horrific tragedy at Northern Illinois University (talk about politicizing dead people…).

Any one of these topics I could have turned into one of my brilliant, penetrating, incisive essays, read by millions, and influencing the movers and shakers in government, bending them to my iron will.

But telling the world what to do gets boring sometimes so I’ll just sit here and shut up for the time being. Maybe tomorrow I’ll find something interesting to write about…

By: Rick Moran at 7:48 pm | Permalink | Comments & Trackbacks (5)

2/14/2008
A SHORT DETOUR INTO CHICAGO’S SAVAGE HISTORY
CATEGORY: History

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Seven of Bugs Moran’s boys lie riddled with bullets in a Clark Street Garage on Valentines Day, 1929.

All my life, I’ve been asked if I am related to Chicago crime boss George “Bugs” Moran, whose outfit was decimated on Valentines Day in 1929. The answer is no, I don’t think so. Moran was and is a very common name in Chicago, a result of an Irish influx in the 1880’s - the same migration that brought my grandfather’s family here from Ireland to escape another in a series of 19th century famines.

Though not related to him, I, like most Chicagoans feel connected to that bloody past if only because part of the legacy of Capone and the crime organizations that operated with impunity in the city was political. The fact is, the gangsters couldn’t operate as freely as they did without having the political clout to intimidate the police, the courts, and ordinary citizens into tolerating their illegal activities.

And it wasn’t just liquor. Gambling, prostitution, loan sharking, and murder for hire were rampant in the city as Capone’s gang literally ran wild in the streets. They routinely murdered those who stood in their way. They paid off police, judges, prosecutors, and most importantly, they had the Mayor himself in their hip pocket.

William Hale “Big Bill” Thompson was a larger than life character who was extremely popular with white, working class voters due to his bombastic style and pugnacious attitude. His first stint as Mayor (1915-23) was marked by the rise of various crime organizations who battled in the streets for control of the lucrative beer and liquor market. He had it in his mind to run for President so he began to collect $3 a month from city workers in order to build a war chest. It is thought that Al Capone was also giving him payoffs although it was never proven. (After his death, two safe deposit boxes were found in his name stuffed with $1.5 million in cash.)

As colorful as Big Bill Thompson was, he was also a civic liability. Here’s an excerpt from a Chicago Tribune editorial following his defeat in 1931:

For Chicago Thompson has meant filth, corruption, obscenity, idiocy and bankruptcy…. He has given the city an international reputation for moronic buffoonery, barbaric crime, triumphant hoodlumism, unchecked graft, and a dejected citizenship. He nearly ruined the property and completely destroyed the pride of the city. He made Chicago a byword for the collapse of American civilization. In his attempt to continue this he excelled himself as a liar and defamer of character

Capone assisted Thompson in his 1927 run to regain the mayoralty largely through intimidating opponents and their supporters. This was crucial to Capone’s plans to make Chicago a wide open city where a man with sybaritic tendencies could get anything he wanted, anytime of day or night. As Capone himself often pointed out, he was just supplying a service that the people wanted.

What the people didn’t want were the constant street battles between various hoodlum outfits. Beginning in the early 1920’s, Capone systematically destroyed these organizations through murder and muscle until in 1929, only Bugs Moran and his Northside Gang stood in his way. Hence, the attempt to wipe Moran and most of his gang out by staging a fake police raid at a Clark Street garage and gunning down 7 Moran associates. Moran himself escaped when he spotted the police cruiser being used by the assassins and never went into the garage.

Moran and his gang survived and the gangster hung on to his slice of the action on the North Side. But Capone’s days were numbered. The feds led by Frank Wilson, an agent for the Bureau of Internal Revenue, hounded Capone on income tax evasion and with the help of Elliot Ness and his Untouchables, wrapped up an ironclad case against the gangster for not paying taxes from 1925-29. Capone’s 11 year sentence finished him as boss. It did not finish his organization.

To this day, the old mob still has its tenterhooks in the city. Every once and a while, a connection surfaces between a politician or a policeman and various elements of the Chicago organization built by Capone. No one is surprised. No one is shocked. It’s the way that the “City That Works” …works.

It is a legacy that Chicagoans forget at their peril.

By: Rick Moran at 11:24 pm | Permalink | Comments & Trackbacks (4)

THE COUNCIL HAS SPOKEN

The votes are in from this week’s Watchers Council and the winner in the Council category is “A Short Hitch” by Done With Mirrors. Finishing second was “The Most Ridiculous Story of 2008? Part 2.” by Cheat Seeking Missiles.

Finishing first in the non-Council category was “Changing the Organizational Culture (Updated)” by Small Wars Journal.

If you’d like to participate in the weekly Watchers Council vote, go here and follow instructions.

By: Rick Moran at 9:33 pm | Permalink | Comments & Trackbacks (0)

NOT A CULT, A CRUSADE

It must have been one helluva speech.

In November of 1095, Pope Urban II stood up to speak at a gathering of church leaders who were meeting at the Council of Clermont to discuss the latest entreaty from the Eastern Holy Roman Emperor Alexios I Komnenos, who was begging for help to drive the Muslims out of his kingdom.

It seems that the Byzantine King had been at war with just about everybody in order to restore some of the luster to the empire lost by incursions by both Europeans like the Normans and especially the Seljuk Turks who had been carving up his diminishing kingdom like a beef roast for two hundred years. City after city, province after province in Asia Minor fell to Muslims. This included the Holy Land - a former jewel in the Byzantine Crown due to the enormously profitable tourist/pilgrimage trade. The Muslims, however, had internal problems of their own and in 1095, the Pope decided the time was ripe to strike.

The Pope’s speech at Clermont was apparently a doozy. There are at least 5 versions of it extant. This excerpt is from a recollection from a charmer by the name of Robert the Monk:

Let the deeds of your ancestors move you and incite your minds to manly achievements; the glory and greatness of king Charles the Great, and of his son Louis, and of your other kings, who have destroyed the kingdoms of the pagans, and have extended in these lands the territory of the holy church. Let the holy sepulchre of the Lord our Saviour, which is possessed by unclean nations, especially incite you, and the holy places which are now treated with ignominy and irreverently polluted with their filthiness. Oh, most valiant soldiers and descendants of invincible ancestors, be not degenerate, but recall the valor of your progenitors.

Aided by the skillful propaganda put out by such colorful luminaries as Peter the Hermit, who fostered the notion that Christian pilgrims were badly mistreated by the Muslims, Europeans, both noble and peasant alike, responded enthusiastically. (Peter the Hermit led 100,000 poorly trained and loosely organized “crusaders” in what became known as “The People’s Crusade. Unfortunately, they seemed more adept at murdering Jews in Eastern Europe and sacking towns that refused to give them food than in fighting Muslims. The Turks massacred them.)

The Pope’s speech was read in every pulpit in Christendom. And along with his bloodcurdling threats against the Muslims, Urban promised anyone who died trying to take the Holy Land back would pass Go and take a shortcut to heaven.

Given the miserable conditions of the European peasantry, heaven sounded like a good deal in comparison - as did the chance to rob, pillage, rape, and generally raise a rumpus as armies of the time were wont to do. So an enormous army was raised comprising several segments and sent off to conquer the Holy Land. This task they accomplished with the taking of Jerusalem in 1099 - an event marked by a horrific slaughter of most of the residents including Jews, Muslims and eastern Christians.

But what possessed so many to drop everything they were doing and run off to fight strangers in a faraway land?

Apparently, Pope Urban’s clarion call to serve touched something deep within his flock. Some historians point to a new European consciousness that spread the notion of western superiority and that Muslim domination of the Holy Land was intolerable in that regard. Other historians note that Muslims had been encroaching on European lands for 300 years, taking parts of Italy, Spain, and Eastern Europe which threatened the kingdoms of northern Europe.

Whatever the reason, Urban’s call for a Crusade to take back the Holy Land was really a charge to revive a glorious past and change the balance of power in favor of Europeans. Those who participated really, really believed in the rightness of their cause, that taking the Holy Land for Christians was “God’s will” (Deus lo volt!). In the name of the Pope and his holy decree, they felt justified in committing all sorts of heinous acts of slaughter and mayhem. Caught up in a religious fervor, those few knights who tried to act in a Christian manner and restrain their followers were ignored in favor of a mentality that gave everyone’s actions a patina of legitimacy regardless of the brutality and hardship that resulted.

This is the essence of a crusade; where emotion trumps reason and belief or faith is substituted for rational thought.

There are many of Senator Barack Obama’s opponents who refer to the “cult-like” atmosphere of his campaign or worse, describe his followers as cultists. Others see a kind of religious fervor at work in the Obama camp.

Neither analysis should be taken seriously as Sara at Orcinus points out:

A lot of people may be surrendering their will temporarily. Quite a few are expressing as much anger as hope — perhaps because expressing this much emotion is new for them, perhaps because they were raised in an era of Rush Limbaugh, perhaps because they’re new to politics and wrongly think this is how it’s done. (Their candidate is in a fine position to deliver some etiquette lessons. I hope he does — and soon — because the backlash is forming.) And, no doubt, there will come a time when Obama’s True Believers are crushed to realize that he appeared to promise one thing, and then did another. But, again, these are normal parts of any large-scale social change movement: FDR, for example, inspired at least this much devotion among the desperate and Depression-scarred citizenry of his early years in office; and it was that implacable trust and support that enabled him to lead the country through a time of radical change.

It’s notable to me that I’m hearing these concerns mainly from aging Boomers who are still nursing the deep wounds inflicted by the savaging of their own dreams, and fear that their children’s naive enthusiasm for Obama will lead them into similar disillusionment. And if that’s you, well, then, you’re right: it probably will. But another word for that is “growing up.” If we love our children, the best thing we can do for them on that inevitable day that they see their hero’s clay feet for the first time is not contaminate them with our own bitter cynicism. Somehow, we need to teach them — which means, even if we don’t feel it, modeling for them — that the only right response to disappointment is to step back, think it through, and find another, better way to re-engage the fight. Quitting is not an option. Given the current state of the country and the planet, neither is failure.

This is an amazing passage when you think about it. Basically, the author is saying that young Obama supporters have suspended their rational thought processes - if they ever had any - in favor of placing unquestioning faith in a politician and that to avoid becoming “disillusioned,” they must develop critical thinking skills in order to deal with their inevitable disappointment.

A more damning statement on this current generation’s capacity to think rationally I have never read. Raised and educated as this generation has been in a liberal bubble of multi-culturalism and political correctness while neglecting the development of independent and critical thinking, it may have been inevitable that they would fall head over heels for the kind of candidacy represented by Obama. He’s different. He’s popular. He makes us feel good for supporting him. And most importantly, he is so vague and nebulous in his politics that, like an empty vessel, you can fill him up with just about anything your heart desires.

Ask one of these rabid Obama supporters why they want him to be president and you’d probably get a similar answer if you asked peasant from Pope Urban’s army why he’s walking from France all the way to Jerusalem to fight a war. Neither will be particularly specific and are likely to mumble something about “believing” in the cause.

The author goes on to show the true nature of these “Obamamaniacs” and the hope placed in Obama to fulfill the “unfinished” hard left agenda from the 60’s:

This misguided “cult” talk not only misunderstands how social change occurs; it’s also giving the GOP a weapon it will use to the hilt if Obama is the candidate in the general election. They’re going to demonize those energetic kids as the re-animated zombie ghosts of the dirty f**king hippies of the 60s. And, in a historic sense, they are. They’re our own children, emerging to finish the work that their parents got too tired and too disillusioned to finish. For us old Boomers, they’re our very last shot at the dream.

We have a choice here. We can either bless them for their energy and commitment, hand them our tattered old ball, and see just how far they’ll be able to move it down the field — even as we stand by with the Bandaids and Bactine, shouting encouragement and coaching tips from the bench, just as many of us have done at a thousand soccer games through the years.

Or we can doom their fresh efforts with our own cynicism, withdraw our approval, make fun of them, and tell them they’re going off the deep end by joining up with some crazy mass movement that will never deliver on its promises of change.

Remarkable. In other words, we should encourage them in their irrational exuberance because if we try and inject a little reality, a little rational thought into their “belief” in Obama, we will make them less willing to unquestioningly follow the candidate toward whatever “change” he eventually settles on.

The Obama Crusade is far from being a Children’s Crusade. It is made up of people of all colors, ages, ethnicities, and religions. But what unites most of them is an inability to disassociate the “promise” of what Obama represents with the reality of what he may actually do as president. A fervent belief in this promise without a concomitant skepticism at what can actually be accomplished will doom this Crusade to eventually suffering the disappointment that simply announcing you are for “change” means little when you don’t get specific about what you are going to change as well as tell people how you are going to accomplish your objectives.

No, not a Cult of Obama but clearly, a movement born of hope, faith, and childlike acceptance of the candidate’s “promise” of greatness.

Is this the stuff of revolution? I don’t see it. More likely, this fervor will drift into the background as the interminably long general election campaign gets underway. At that point, I will guarantee you that if Obama fails to define himself, others will do it for him. And as Obama gets more specific and people realize exactly what his idea of “change” actually is, I suspect that the candidate will appear a little less like a man on a white horse and more like a normal Democratic party politician.

By: Rick Moran at 4:19 pm | Permalink | Comments & Trackbacks (12)

2/13/2008
TWILIGHT OF THE GODS
CATEGORY: Decision '08

Is it really possible that the world has passed the Clinton’s by?

Yesterday’s total immolation of Hillary Clinton by Barack Obama - along with his 5 previous double digit wins since Super Tuesday - reveal as much about how badly the Democratic party truly wants to move on from the Clinton era as it does the wild popularity of Obama. When the electorate rejects you by 3-1 and 4-1 margins, a little voice in your head must begin asking you “How much more of this kind of humiliation can you take?”

The answer in Hillary’s case is thankfully, not too much more. The exit polls from yesterday in Virginia and Maryland show how much her base of supporters have betrayed her. In Maryland, 62% of Democratic voters were women - and Obama got 55% of their vote. Hillary captured the white women 56-38 and that was it. She lost single women by an astonishing 59-38. In New Hampshire, Clinton won a large plurality of the women’s vote while getting 50% of the single women’s vote in a 5 person race.

The tide has turned.

In Virginia, by a more than 2-1 margin, people preferred “change” to “experience.” Obama also destroyed Hillary in every income group - even the under $50,000 voters who had been her bedrock support in previous primaries. In Maryland, she barely edged Obama in the over 60 age group 48-47 - another leg of her base she needs to remain upright.

Clinton handily won white Democrats and Hispanics. But with Obama winning 2/3 of independents and 80-90% of African Americans, it is very difficult to see where Clinton can cobble together the blocs necessary to win a primary. If she has lost the women’s vote (especially single women), the lunch pail crowd, and the nursing home contingent, where does she go for votes?

She was in Texas yesterday appealing to Hispanics. This is a good idea but she will need to find a way to peel support away from Obama if she expects to win. In South Carolina, Bill Clinton successfully brought a majority of white Democrats to her side. But they lost the primary because blacks and independents turned out in record numbers for Obama. Now Hillary apparently can’t win a majority of women, of Democratic men, independents, or of any large bloc of Democratic voters who she or her husband had been able to count on in elections.

Watch Wisconsin next week. If the same gloomy numbers emerge for Clinton, she may as well pack it in. Ohio is a state much like Wisconsin with a large union presence, a smaller percentage of African Americans, and a large white middle class. Indeed, in some polls, she is down by as much as 11 points already - and that was before the blow out last night along the Potomac river.

She has done all the traditional things to get her campaign righted. She has fired people - only to discover that when she fired her Latina campaign manager she angered her most reliable base group; the Hispanics. She is ignoring Obama’s victories (as if putting her hands over her ears and screaming NEENER! NEENER! NEENER! the bad news will just go away and she won’t have to think about it much). And she is plugging away, not slowing down her pace, still fighting - to the end.

This is how the Clinton era in national American politics will end. They came into the national limelight hand in hand, a true ’90’s “power couple” with a frightening amount of ambition and determination, lighting up the sky like exploding fireworks and laying waste to Washington as well as their personal friendships. The number of broken lives they left in their wake is astonishing - even for a politician. Harassed women, aides thrown to the wolves, friends thrown to the prosecutors - a body count extraordinary in its diversity. White, black, Hispanic, Asian, women, men, - a microcosm of the identity politics they played with such relish - and such ruthlessness.

Another loss like Virginia and Maryland in Wisconsin will almost certainly increase calls for her to drop out in the name of party unity. Some of her Super Delegates may even begin to desert her. It will be at that point that she will look at Ohio and Texas and perhaps realize the futility of continuing on. She probably won’t drop out at that point despite the hopelessness of her situation. But her humiliation will be complete. The once vaunted Clinton political machine would have been destroyed by newcomer - a self styled new Democrat who rejected the politics of personal destruction in favor of a kinder, gentler approach.

They will go out humiliated by an electorate that will end up rejecting their brand of “take no prisoners” politics in favor of the empty platitudes of an interloper. How it will gall both of them, in love with the intricacies of policy, to see a candidate eclipse them who eschews specifics in favor of atmospherics and feel-good populism.

There will be no political obituary for Hillary. She has a career and a future in the Senate if she chooses. But she has never seemed to me to be a “settler.” Her every move in the Senate these last 8 years has been a calculation on how it will affect her run for the president. To simply be a senator for the sake of serving the country? I just don’t know.

The Clinton’s will not fade into the background - Bill will see to that. But their influence will be severely weakened. They will probably remain personally popular - as long as they can raise gobs of money for their friends. But the heady days of being on top and riding the tiger are almost certainly over.

By: Rick Moran at 7:17 pm | Permalink | Comments & Trackbacks (9)

HILLARY IN HOT WATER
CATEGORY: PJ Media

My latest Pajamas Media column is on the suddenly narrowing options open to Hillary Clinton’s faltering campaign.

Hillary isn’t just losing these primaries. She is getting slaughtered. But she still has one last card to play; her ability to carry Democratic strongholds:

If Obama has a knock against him during this brilliant run of victories beginning on Super Tuesday when he won 13 states to Clinton’s 8, and continuing on through his last 8 straight wins since then, it is that the Illinois senator has failed to win any of the 10 largest states in the union save his home state of Illinois. This is significant because traditional Democratic general election strategy relies on the huge electoral vote harvest available in those states to be competitive with Republicans on election day.

Clinton’s argument to Super Delegates is that since she is more capable of taking those large states, she should be the nominee. Most of Obama’s victories have come in states that will probably not go Democratic in the fall. The true test, Clinton will plead, of who is most electable — and that will be the criteria most of the Super Delegates will be weighing — comes in those states where most Democratic voters are concentrated; the large states on both coasts.

It is a compelling argument and probably the only one she has left. But Obama will have his own counter-argument. It is he who will have won the large majority of primaries and primary votes. It would be undemocratic, he will say, to choose a candidate who finished second when the people spoke but was handed the nomination by a quirk in party rules.

For the rest, go here.

By: Rick Moran at 9:27 am | Permalink | Comments & Trackbacks (2)