Having Nunn of It

According to this morning’s Boston Globe, Sam Nunn is near the top of Obama’s VP shortlist:

The liberal freshman from Illinois and the national security specialist from rural Georgia immediately hit it off, according to interviews with confidants of the two men.


For two decades, Nunn has been floated as a potential vice presidential candidate by virtue of his national security credentials and conservative southern roots. And each time he has dis missed such talk out of hand, while the party’s nominees opted for more liberal choices from states more likely to go Democratic in November.
But this year, the personal and intellectual affinity between the presumptive Democratic nominee and the 69-year-old elder statesman – who abandoned a policy of not backing candidates in Democratic primaries when he endorsed Obama in April – makes him a real possibility as Obama’s running mate, according to interviews with current and former government officials who know both men.
“He sounds like he may be more open to it,” said Arnold Punaro, a retired Marine Corps general who served on Nunn’s Senate staff for 24 years and remains in close contact with his former boss. “He has never before endorsed anybody. That was a surprise to me.”
Those close to Nunn, speaking on condition of anonymity, say he seems more prepared to accept a vice presidential offer this year, helping to offset Obama’s lack of experience on national security and giving the Democrats a fighting chance in Georgia.
“I think he would be an excellent choice and would have to be in the top three or four for Obama,” said former secretary of defense William S. Cohen. Cohen, a Republican and former senator from Maine, and Nunn recently launched a bipartisan policy dialogue, sponsored by the centrist Center for Strategic and International Studies, designed to elevate nuclear security, climate change, national service, and other “seminal” issues in the national debate.

Jim Johnson apparently pushed Nunn for both Kerry and Obama, but now that he’s out of the picture I’d hope that this nonsense would end. No such luck, I guess.
So I’ve started a petition. I’ve registered the domain havingnunnofit.com for it; I’ll tell you when that’s up and running. When signed, the message (which details just three of the many reasons Nunn is completely unacceptable as a Democratic VP) will go to David Plouffe, Steve Hildebrand (Obama’s deputy campaign manager), and Eric Holder, one of his two running mate vetters. If anyone has Caroline Kennedy’s email address, I’ll add that to the list. We need to make sure that the Obama campaign knows just how much upset the Democratic base would be if Nunn is picked.

Burger for VP?

Dana Goldstein reports that the SEIU, like David Sirota, is pushing its Secretary-Treasurer and the Change to Win Coalition’s president Anna Burger as a vice presidential choice. She’s unconvinced:

As a lifelong progressive activist and the first woman to head a major American labor coalition, Burger is a highly accomplished, admirable individual. But she simply isn’t a realistic veep choice: She’s too lefty, has never held an elected office or served in government, and as a public speaker, I’ve found her hit or miss. Furthermore, her deep-seeded economic populism, frankly, hasn’t been embraced by the Obama campaign to date.

I actually spent much of my time reading The Argument (long post coming after graduation tonight, I promise) wondering why no one was talking about Burger’s boss at the SEIU, Andy Stern, as a VP choice. He, along with John Podesta, comes across astonishingly well, as a committed progressive who gets that the globalization information economy require a fundamental rethinking of the social contract and the New Deal-era safety net. What’s more, Stern, like Burger, was born in 1950, making both of them young enough (66) to succeed Obama in 2016. Obama has said that he’s more sure of his foreign policy credentials than his domestic policy ones, and so a pick like Stern or Burger seems to make more sense than Webb or the homophobic Neanderthal that is Sam Nunn (in all seriousness, if it so much as looks like Obama will pick Nunn, everyone I know still working on the campaign will get a mouthful from me). Stern and Burger would both bring a reformist bent, as part of CtW rather than AFL-CIO, and a combination of outsider appeal and deep experience. While Goldstein’s right that Burger and Austan Goolsbee would probably disagree on a lot, she and Stern both have a more center-left, and more globalization-friendly, economic view than many, more traditional unionist, which jibes well with Obama’s approach.
But as soon as I got back and Wikipediaed Stern, I realized the most immediate reason either pick wouldn’t work: the SEIU UHW dispute. While I don’t know nearly enough about it to take sides, the controversy centers around accusations of un-democratic behavior on the part of the SEIU leadership (i.e. Stern and Burger). That plays into the most devastating and common right-wing attacks on unions, and would allow McCain, without any basis, to play an Obama/Stern or Obama/Burger ticket as a continuation of the old days of corrupt unions and political machines. It’d be totally unfair, especially given how reformist the three are, but the SEIU UHW deal makes it possible.
So I think that, on the merits, Goldstein isn’t giving Burger her due. Either she or Stern would make a fine vice president, and a fine president in eight years. But if she’s picked, or Stern for that matter, I hope Caroline Kennedy and Eric Holder have vetted them by crazy. The potential for right-wing smears is great, and we have to be sure that neither would be a electoral liability.

Matter of Fact, He Couldn’t See It Like a Cataract

Paul Krugman, to his credit, has moderated his Obama and Obama supporter hatred since Clinton’s defeat became clear, but this is still very wrong:

The 2008 campaign has been a very disillusioning experience for a lot of people. You can make a very good case that Barack Obama was the right person for the Democrats to nominate, and Hillary Clinton the wrong choice. But the way we got there was terrible. The raw sexism, in all too many cases coming from alleged progressives — see above — was part of it. So, too, was the inability of many alleged progressives to see that the news media created the narrative of Hillary Clinton as race-baiter in much the same way that, 8 years ago, they created the narrative of Al Gore as congenital liar — by assembling a montage of quotes taken out of context and willfully misinterpreted.

I think the notion that sexism was a determinative factor in the race is laughable; Hillary lost because of her war vote, plain and simple. But more importantly, Krugman’s article speaks to a false moral equivalence Ta-Nehisi Coates attacked eloquently this morning. The fact of the matter is that, whether or not Krugman and his fellow Clinton supporters see it, the Clintons ran a vicious, racist campaign from December to May, and Obama and his campaign did nothing even close to comparable. Let’s roll through the highlights, shall we?

  • December 12th, 2007: NH Clinton Campaign Co-Chair Bill Shaheen ponders, to reporters, whether Obama dealt drugs as a teenager.
  • December 16th, 2007: In a speech endorsing Clinton, former Sen. Bob Kerrey (D-NE) refers to Obama as “Barack Hussein Obama” and mentions Obama’s father and maternal grandmother’s Muslim background. He follows up by falsely accusing Obama of having attended a “madrassa”.
  • January 7th, 2008: In the course of attacking Obama for harboring “false hope”, Clinton attacks Martin Luther King Jr., saying that “Dr. King’s dream began to be realized when President Johnson passed the Civil Rights Act. It took a president to get it done.”
  • January 7th, 2008: At an event literally three blocks from my house, Bill Clinton, in the course of falsely accusing Obama of not having opposed the war (WTF?), calls Obama’s candidacy “the biggest fairy tale I’ve ever seen”.
  • January 10th, 2008: New York State Attorney General Andrew Cuomo, speaking on behalf of the Clinton campaign, says, in reference to Obama, “You can’t shuck and jive at a press conference. All those moves you can make with the press don’t work when you’re in someone’s living room.”
  • January 13th, 2008: BET Founder and Clinton surrogate Bob Johnson says, “I am frankly insulted that the Obama campaign would imply that we are so stupid that we would think Hillary and Bill Clinton, who have been deeply and emotionally involved in black issues since Barack Obama was doing something in the neighborhood – and I won’t say what he was doing, but he said it in the book – when they have been involved,” an obvious reference to Obama’s teenage drug use.
  • March 11th, 2008: Geraldine Ferraro, a prominent Clinton surrogate, says “If Obama was a white man, he would not be in this position. And if he was a woman of any color, he would not be in this position. He happens to be very lucky to be who he is. And the country is caught up in the concept,” and defends herself by adding “Every time that campaign is upset about something, they call it racist. I will not be discriminated against because I’m white. If they think they’re going to shut up Geraldine Ferraro with that kind of stuff, they don’t know me.”
  • May 8th, 2008: Hillary Clinton herself equates “hard-working Americans” with “white Americans”.

    As for Obama, the claims of sexism against his campaign verge on two things: the laughable assertion that the word “periodically” is a sexist dogwhistle, and his usage of the pet name sweetie (something that my friends use with me, and likewise, without regard to gender). Neither seems particularly sexist to me, but even granting the complaints, they pale in comparison to the long, distinguished list of racist attacks leveled by Clinton and her campaign. Has the media been sexist in this campaign? Of course. But they’re been racist too. The real disparity in the campaign was between the aggressive race-baiting on the part of the Clinton and the almost complete lack of sexism emanating from the Obama campaign. It really confounds me that so much of this week has focused on coverage of the horrible sexism Clinton had to endure, with no mention of the intense racism her campaign promoted against Obama.

  • Pushback

    I returned from a pleasant trip to Disney World (for school purposes! promise!) to the pleasant discovery that Matt Zeitlin is, as usual, moving on up in the liberal new media elite. He’s the youngest contributor at Campus Progress’ new blog, Pushback, along with fourteen other contributors both familiar (Jamie Henn, Kay Steiger) and new but intriguing (Emily Rutherford, Kwame Boadi). So far, it’s excellent (with the possible exception of this post), with a wonky flavor beyond that of even the Wonk Room. Check it out.
    Pushback dovetails nicely with the fact that I read The Argument by Matt Bai this week, a book that’s simultaneously massively entertaining, extremely frustrating and much more right than I want it to be or than many liberal blog types believe that it is. I’ll have much more to say about it later, but suffice it to say that every group given any large degree of scrutiny (the Democracy Alliance, MoveOn, the Kos/Armstrong netroots) doesn’t come off particularly well – with the exception of John Podesta and the Center for American Progress. While a lot of the folks in the book – particularly Rob Stein of the Democracy Alliance but also Markos, Jerome, and the MoveOn guys – talk about emulating right-wing messaging and think-tank institutions, John Podesta actually has, creating a very well-respected think tank and online publishing network in less than five years. It’s incredibly impressive, really, and Pushback’s only the most recent instantiation of this remarkable growth.

    My Taste, My Politics, My Taste, My Politics!

    This, my friends, is what aesthetic Stalinism looks like:

    It absolutely drives me insane how Polanski and other high profile sex offenders like accused Woody Allen are treated like martyrs for having to endure the tabloids for heinous crimes, and labeled as these brilliant, tragic and fascinating men. Is it just me or is there something really disturbing about this?

    Yes, Vanessa did actually deem Roman Polanski and Woody Allen, without question two of the greatest filmmakers and artists currently living, not “brilliant” or “fascinating” because of their failure to adhere to her moral standards. Commenter “Alice” asks for clarification:

    I’m not clear on what you’re saying. If you’re saying that it’s disturbing that they’re labeled as tragic and fascinating in some part because they’re sex offenders, then sure, I’d agree with that. But if you’re criticizing the fact that people pay tribute to them despite that they’re sex offenders, then I’d have to disagree; committing a sex crime does not diminish a person’s other achievements.

    Vanessa replies that, yes, she really does conflate her aesthetic views with her political agenda:

    Back to Polanski, Alice, I am saying the first thing you mentioned, as well as the second. I think there’s something wrong with them being treated as some sort of victim (of tabloid attacks and public outrage) despite their offenses and martyred for it, and I do also think it’s disturbing that they’re continuously praised despite their offenses, like Rusty’s example of Polanski’s standing ovation.

    Wow. She really doesn’t think that Roman !@#king Polanski deserved a standing ovation at the Oscar. Really, she doesn’t think that Macbeth, Chinatown or Tess have earned one that kind of acclaim. Obviously he’s not a morally upright person; he is, indeed a convicted rapist. But the man made and makes damn good films. Call me crazy, but I’m inclined to think that that sort of justifies a standing ovation at the Oscars.
    The Woody Allen aside is even more bizarre. The man’s never been convicted, or indicted, or even investigated for anything. His relationship with Soon-Yi went public when she was 21; the ruckus was over the age difference and relationship with Mia Farrow, not over any criminal or pedophilic wrongdoing. Vanessa vaguely mentions that she believes accusations of abuse by Allen when Soon-Yi was 7, but produces no evidence that such accusations were ever made, let alone evidence for their veracity (but, of course, she’s willing to blame Allen). I personally don’t have a problem with Allen’s marriage (less of one than I have with Curse of the Jade Scorpion, anyway), but even if I did, the man directed Manhattan. The man wrote Crimes & Misdemeanors. The man produced Annie Hall, far and away my favorite film. His personal conduct doesn’t denigrate those accomplishments; indeed, it isn’t even close to relevant.
    If Vanessa really using this kind of political litmus test on all the art she consumes, I feel sorry for her. I mean that.

    We Won

    “We’re going to win this shit, man! We are, we’re gonna win it!”

    -Ali Zaidi, NH for Obama organizer, September 26, 2007

    My earliest political memory is Bill Clinton’s impeachment. Sure, I had heard my parents talk about some crazy guy named Perot when I was six, but the first political event that I can recall at all lucidly is the impeachment. And at the time I didn’t get it. Even a nine-year-old could see that there was something wrong with invoking the most drastic tool of the Constitution, one I had read was reserved for crooks and tyrants, against a man for doing what I knew some of my friends’ parents had done. It seemed completely bizarre. How could government work like that?

    Things didn’t get much better from there. The first candidate I ever supported was Bill Bradley; I went to a rally or two, held a sign outside the debate at Dartmouth, and watched as the man got crushed. Next came the general election. I backed Nader, out of both a foolish focus on issue purity (he’s for single-payer health care! he’s for gay marriage!) and because I thought, after the impeachment, that the system was fundamentally broken and only someone outside the mainstream could fix it. And the outcome just confirmed this disillusionment. The man who won a plurality, who lead by 500,000 votes, got caught up in a month of litigation before losing. It was more bizarre than the impeachment. How could a democracy send the loser of an election into the presidency? How could that happen? By this point I was so sick of it all that I started Googling around to see what this whole communism idea was all about. Impressionable 10-year-old Dylan didn’t stick with that plan (thank God), but the damage was done. I still remember being told by my 6th grade journalism teacher that two planes had hit the World Trade Center towers, and responding, “Somehow, Bush will find a way to mess this up.” No one should respond to a national tragedy like that. No 11-year-old should respond to a national tragedy like that.

    More importantly, no one who responds to a national tragedy like that should be proven right. But I was. A year later, the person everyone knew ordered the attack was still at large, despite us having sent thousands of troops to the country he was hiding in, and Bush didn’t care. He was too busy getting ready to invade Iraq. This beat out both the 2000 election and the impeachment. I knew Iraq didn’t order the attacks. I was totally baffled that mere possession of biochemical weapons could justify an all-out invasion. I was offended that no one seemed to care that Hans Blix was saying time and time again that no weapons had been found.

    But mostly I was saddened that we had no opposition party. The Democratic Majority Leader in the Senate and the Minority Leader in the House had both voted for war, and about half of the party’s members followed. There was a chance for redemption. Howard Dean was running an absurdly strong campaign; he had been governor of Vermont for as long as I could remember, and I knew him as a solid, centrist governor who caught a lot of flack from both sides. He wasn’t as left-leaning as I would have liked, but he was the only serious candidate opposed to the war. I flirted with supporting Wes Clark after he announced, but eventually I started volunteering for Dean. He opposed the war, and he was going to win.

    And then he didn’t. In January 2004, after the looting in Baghdad, and the start of the insurgency, Democrats in Iowa, New Hampshire, and every state thereafter rejected the candidate who opposed the war and nominated one who had voted for it. On the collective lapse of national reason that was the Iraq war, there was precious little difference left between the parties. Still, I rooted for Kerry in the general. And then he lost too.

    That’s politics as I grew up with it. And that’s politics as most people my generation grew up with it. We saw a bitter, deadly game, one where Presidents nearly got booted out of office for their personal lives, where losers won elections, where Presidents respond to attacks on American soil by briefly pursuing the attacker and then invading a random country for little or no reason, and where the American people and the opposition party go along with that for years on end. We got tired of it, and we got cynical.

    But for some reason, a first-term Senator from Illinois is getting young people more active in politics than they’ve ever been in history. He is able to cut through our fatigue, our disillusionment, and tell us there can be something better. Some of this is due to his record; Obama’s early opposition to the war and lack of connection to the first term of the Bush administration grant him a distance from the traumas of that period that Clinton does not have. But mostly, it’s because of the speeches. It’s because of hope.

    Obama gets bashed a lot for talking about hope. It’s called a smokescreen, a veil behind which to hide his lack of experience or substance. But for me, hope is something concrete. Hope is the ability to carve out a new politics. Not perfection, not a Common Cause dream world, but a politics where the Clinton impeachment wouldn’t happen. One where Iraq wouldn’t happen. Hope means exorcising the demons of our youth, the demons of a politics that destroys.

    It’s an amazing thing to see happen. If your impression of an Obama intern was of a Flight of the Conchords-watching, Daft Punk-loving, deeply sarcastic hipster, then your impression was more or less right. And this manifested itself on the job; we’d alternately refer to our occupation as “changing the world” and “spreading hope, taking action, and effecting change”. But even as we cracked snarky jokes, we all believed it on some level. When we said we were changing the world, we all, at least a little bit, meant it in the most literal and unironic sense. This man, and more importantly the movement he started, had changed us. We could be earnest. We could be do-gooders. Obama likes to joke about critics who want him to be more experienced, about how they want to “boil the hope out” of him. Well, Obama boiled the cynicism out of us.

    That’s what Obama represents. He represents something better, something we’ve never had. More than that, he represents our ability to achieve that better world. He has lead a generation to become engaged on a level never before seen, and if that sticks even a little bit it’ll have an impact greater than what he alone could ever achieve. Obama has been a key force in our self-enfranchisement, and that’s no small thing, either for us or for the nation.

    That’s why I teared up when I saw the news that Obama will clinch the nomination tonight. It’s a vindication not just of Obama’s candidacy. It’s a vindication of my first serious involvement in a political campaign, and that of thousands of other people my age. It’s a victory not of one man, not of one campaign, but of a generation of newborn activists. It wasn’t just Obama that won today. We won too.