• Friday, February 29, 2008 at 11:16 AM

    Poor John Lewis: Now Hillary doesn’t want his friendship, and Obama doesn’t need his support

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    I thought I was inoculated long ago against being shocked by the things politicians say and do. But Congressman John Lewis (D-GA) proved this week that I am not.

    Before I assail him, however, I feel obliged to acknowledge that no one is more worthy of respect and honor as a civil rights leader than Lewis. Because he not only embodies the spirit but also bears the scars of those who marched, and were bloodied and bruised, for the cause.

    Of course, this is why every Democratic presidential candidate since Jimmy Carter has solicited his support. (Republicans knew they did not have a prayer….) Therefore, it’s no wonder Hillary Clinton beamed with such pride and assurance when she announced last October that she had won the quadrennial Lewis prize.

    Then came Iowa and the Obama phenomenon that has turned expectations of Hillary’s coronation as the Democratic nominee into delusions of things past. And none of her fair-weather supporters embodies this disaffection with her candidacy more than Lewis.

    More to the point, however, none of them has expressed any personal anguish over their political opportunism. By contrast, Lewis turned his shift from Hillary to Obama into such a national confessional on Wednesday that it may overshadow his legacy as a civil rights pioneer.

    After all, he was virtually in tears as he confessed that his decision to withdraw his support for Hillary was more difficult and daring than his decision to fight for black civil rights.

    Unfortunately, whatever his personal conflicts today, this pathetic confession belittles not only his bravery and sacrifice but that of every other civil rights pioneer as well. And, ironically, his claim that – as a superdelegate – he has a political duty to switch because most of his constituents support Obama smacks of cowardice. In fact, it reeks of Clintonian hypocrisy.

    Frankly, I thought only Bill and Hillary had the balls to mask rank political expediency with this kind of sincerity. But I’m not at all surprised that neither of them wanted to hear from Lewis about his conversion. Because they know better than anyone when a politician is just shedding crocodile tears.

    Meanwhile, even though he will surely take his Johnny-come-lately support, I hope Obama forces Lewis to sit at the back of his bandwagon – where he can tarry and toil to redeem his political character.

    NOTE: If he were not simply following the political winds, Lewis could easily have honored his “passionate” endorsement of Hillary, and still voted for Obama as a superdelegate at the Democratic convention – assuming it even comes to that. There was no reason for him to manufacture this shameful political and emotional conflict.

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  • Thursday, February 28, 2008 at 9:27 AM

    Bona fide renaissance man William F. Buckley, Jr. is dead

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    I am, I fully grant, a phenomenon, but not because of any speed in composition…. I asked myself the other day, `Who else, on so many issues, has been so right so much of the time?’ I couldn’t think of anyone.

    [William F. Buckley, Jr. in the New York Times Book Review 1986]

    By today’s standards, William F. Buckley, Jr. (WFB) was a man of unique talents and unparalleled accomplishments. For example, he was an editor, a columnist, a novelist (of 50 fifty books), a talk show host (for 23 years of Firing Line), a harpsichordist, a transatlantic sailor, and, most enviable, a connoisseur of peanut butter.

    What I admired most about him was that, on almost every subject, WFB was always as glib as he was right in proffering his views – even when the subject was himself.

    Alas, he was no less glib when he was wrong – as was the case when he argued that people who are HIV positive should be tattooed. But, to his credit, he was not above admitting when he was wrong.

    All the same, I shall leave it to blowhard conservatives like Rush Limbaugh to wax sentimental about this “intellectual founder of the modern conservative movement.”

    Instead, I shall suffice to note that WFB was conspicuous by the fact that he personified so much of what is missing in his conservative acolytes, namely: intelligence, wit, tolerance, and a healthy skepticism of orthodoxy (political and religious).

    Of course, many of the conservatives eulogizing him today will manifest selective amnesia. After all, they’ll be loath to note that, like me, WFB supported such liberal causes as abortion rights, gay rights, and the decriminalizing of drugs and prostitution.

    He reportedly died at his home yesterday from complications of emphysema. He was 82.

    RIP, WFB

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  • Wednesday, February 27, 2008 at 9:08 AM

    “Celestial choirs” singing for Obama vs. the Fat Lady singing for Hillary

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    Now I could stand up here and say, ‘Let’s just get everybody together. Let’s get unified. The sky will open. The lights will come down. Celestial choirs will be singing and everyone will know we should do the right thing and the world will be perfect.’

    Most political pundits inferred that Hillary Clinton was just mocking the Obama phenomenon when she intoned these words at a campaign rally last weekend. But I think she was also cursing God for her faltering campaign. After all, this time last year she felt certain that her Democratic nomination and election as president of the United States were ordained by Him.

    Meanwhile, even though I’m relishing the way Barack Obama is usurping her ordination, I have genuine sympathy for the emotional, psychological and political trauma this reversal of fortune is evidently causing Hillary.

    Indeed, nothing demonstrated how unhinged she’s becoming quite like the hissy fit she threw a few days ago over leaflets Obama circulated about her support for NAFTA. Not to mention the way she cited Saturday Night Live for the hysterical and paranoid proposition that debate moderators are picking on her….

    Therefore, I was actually pulling for her to perform well in last night’s debate. Never mind my contention that, after two or three, these debates become nothing more than crack cocaine for political junkies. Moreover, that the way candidates perform in them does not determine whether they win or lose a single vote!

    In fact, nothing betrayed the farcical nature of these debates quite the way the media, including moderators Brian Williams and Tim Russert, hyped this debate as if it were a political version of the Jerry Springer Show.

    And “Exhibit A” in this respect was the way they tried to incite a brawl over pictures Hillary’s campaign leaked to the media showing Obama wearing traditional African garb.

    But kudos to him for not taking the bait – with its craven insinuation that he might be a closet Muslim. Actually, Obama seemed rather presidential when he dismissed the question about them without being the least bit defensive.

    (Incidentally, as much as these pictures may play to cultural ignorance and religious bigotry in America, they will only enhance the stature and appeal of a President Obama in the international community – especially in Muslim countries where the US now covets goodwill so desperately.)

    At any rate, I’m glad Hillary acquitted herself well…enough. Even so, it was a little embarrassing to see her parroting not only hackneyed talking points but also lines from a TV vaudeville show to make her case to be president of the United States.

    No doubt she was praying that, under the spell of this latest incarnation of her Dr. Jekyll and Mrs. Hyde candidacy, the sky will open, Obama’s delusional supporters will finally see the light, and everyone will begin singing hosanna to Hillary once again….

    As an epilogue, it seems fitting to end this the way I ended last week’s commentary on Hillary and Obama’s penultimate debate in Texas:

    Obama must have read my commentary on the South Carolina debate. Because even though Hillary has been hounding him to agree to weekly debates, he has insisted that, after 18 already, one more is enough. Hear, hear!

    As my “Pasenog” Noel would say, stick a fork in her….

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    * OBAMA ’08: To learn more about this extraordinary presidential candidate, and to contribute to his audacious campaign, please click here.

  • Tuesday, February 26, 2008 at 10:09 AM

    Raul pledges to continue Fidel’s (50-year) Cuban revolution…duh!

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    On Sunday, Raul Castro succeeded his brother Fidel as president of Cuba. And in so doing, he consummated a historic transition that was as predictable and seamless as the night follows the day.

    Yet to read all of the political analysis and commentary that attended this occasion, you’d think it portended change akin to the fall of the Berlin wall. But even though newsworthy, I do not think Raul’s official coronation warrants anything more than the republication of a commentary I wrote almost two years ago, in which I presaged the truth and consequences of this succession.

    Accordingly, here for your (re)edification is Dancing on Castro’s grave is not only unseemly; it’s also premature, which was published originally on August 2, 2006:

    Cuban Americans were dancing in the streets this week upon learning that critical surgery forced Fidel Castro to transfer power to his brother Raul. However, their celebration betrayed not only how naive they are about the implications of this transfer, but also how much emotion and resources they have vested in this man’s eventual death.

    Meanwhile, most people around the world are acutely aware that America’s relationship with Cuba, not Palestine, is “Exhibit A for the patent double standards that govern US foreign policy. Moreover, an increasing number of Americans are beginning to resent the undue deference their goverment pays to a cabal of Cuban exiles in Miami – whose political sensibilities are guided by nothing more than their visceral, vindictive and, ultimately, self-defeating hatred of Fidel Castro.

    Although to hear them fulminate against him, one can be forgiven the impression that Cuban immigrants have far greater regard for the democratic principle “that all men are created equal…” than anyone else in the world. However, I know too many Haitian immigrants living in their midst to have any respect for the moral indignation they hurl at Castro.

    Indeed, it constitutes an ironic racial symmetry that “white” Cubans in Miami discriminate against black Haitians, just as their grandparents back in Cuba discriminated against black Cubans before Castro forced them to flee his “socialist” revolution.

    Let me hasten to clarify, however, that I’m not the least bit enamored of Castro. After all, I am mindful that the people who have suffered most under his dictatorship are blacks who – like black Americans too poor to escape Hurricane Katrina – simply did not have the means to flee his revolution.

    My assertion in this regard is informed, among other things, by the testimonials of black athletes – whose escape was invariably orchestrated by white Cuban agents hoping to make a fast buck by selling them to professional sport teams in the US.

    Not to mention that it indicts not only Castro but also his international supporters (especially black Americans) that the vast majority of black Cubans live in more squalid conditions today – four decades into his socialist dictatorship – than they did under the dictatorship of the man Castro overthrew, Fulgencio Batista.

    When you say there’s racial discrimination in Cuba, you’re told there’s not. Yes, there is! When you go looking for work … they’re looking to see whether you’re black or white.… Ever since television reached Cuba 40 years ago, the image projected has been overwhelmingly white.

    [Alden White, a 59-year-old black unemployable actor]

    Therefore, it is precisely because poor blacks in Cuba have suffered most from America’s embargo against Cuba that I condemn white Miami Cubans for using their considerable political influence to keep it in place. And if anyone doubts my characterization of these Cuban exiles as a bunch of hopelessly misguided zealots, consider that they’re dancing on Castro’s grave even though Fidel will be succeeded by his brother Raul who – by all accounts – will be just as ruthless, even if a less vain a dictator.

    Actually, I predict that the pragmatic Raul will emulate his new Chinese patrons by pursuing liberal economic policies while imposing even stricter political and military controls in Cuba. Indeed, friendly nations like China and Venezuela are flushed with cash and seem eager to help him develop Cuba into a Caribbean economic tiger, if only to spite the U.S. (To be fair, Canada and EU countries seem equally eager to help in this respect.)

    Most significantly, apropos Cuba post-Castros, Raul has pledged to groom Fidel’s hand-picked protégés to lead the next generation of the revolution.

    Hence, it is a testament to the conceit and arrogance of Miami Cubans that they firmly believe they’ll be able to return to Cuba after Fidel dies – to inherit the political power and social privileges their ancestors abdicated decades ago.

    And they assume this prerogative without any regard for the Cubans who have been toiling at home, waiting for their opportunity to govern their country. But, at this rate, a well-indoctrinated Elian Gonzalez will be Cuban dictator before Miami Cubans are disabused of their antic pining for their paradise lost….

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  • Monday, February 25, 2008 at 5:30 AM

    My review of the 2008 Oscars

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    I really enjoy cinema. And I appreciate the attention the Oscars often give to good but relatively unseen films like Atonement. Unfortunately, with all due respect to critics and members of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (the Academy), how much a film makes, not whether the Academy awards it an Oscar, is the generally recognized measure of its success. Especially since winning an Oscar is more the result of crass political campaigning than any assessment of artistic achievement.

    Indeed, it might surprise, if not disillusion, many of you to learn that studios covet an Oscar for Best Picture primarily because – as Sumner Redstone, the owner of Paramount, conceded in a moment of extraordinary candor – it guarantees millions more in box office receipts.

    Of course, there have been rare instances when certifiable blockbusters have also won critical acclaim and the Oscar for Best Picture: e.g., Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King, Titanic, Braveheart, and Forrest Gump. Nevertheless, it’s undeniable that winning an Oscar is more often the result of a crass PR campaign than of a critical assessment of artistic achievement.

    That said, I’m on record stating rather emphatically how much I detest the Annual Academy Awards telecast. Because I have little regard for preening, pampered poseurs showing off their borrowed frocks and bling-bling as a prelude to a three-hour show – only six minutes of which anyone really cares about (i.e., the time it takes to present Oscars for best supporting actor and actress, best actor and actress, best director and best picture).

    And, remarkably enough, the host comedians do little to relieve the boredom of the interludes between these carefully spread-out moments. Yet, to be fair, Jon Stewart did a great deal last night to redeem his poor performance of two years ago.

    Never mind that the audience’s enthusiasm probably had more to do with appreciation that the writers’ strike did not cancel the show than with regard for his jokes.

    At any rate, here’s how my picks for the 80th Annual Academy Awards, which I published on my weblog on Saturday morning, fared with last night’s actual winners:

    · The Oscar for Actor in a Supporting Role goes to:

    My pick – JAVIER BARDEM for No Country For Old Men. Which proves once again that actors should at least give themselves a fighting chance at winning by playing characters with virtually no socially or artistically redeeming traits (ditto for leading actors).

    · The Oscar for Actress in a Supporting Role goes to:

    TILDA SWINTON for Michael Clayton. My pick was Ruby Dee for American Gangster; although this was admittedly a more sentimental than artistic choice.

    Nevertheless, Swinton did not give an Academy-Award performance in this film. After all, she was out performed not only by Tom Wilkinson but even by George Clooney! Moreover, her American accent was not nearly as convincing as Emma Thompson’s was when she played Hillary Clinton in Primary Colors a few years ago.

    · The Oscar for Actress in a Leading Role goes to:

    MARION COTILLARD for La Vie En Rose. My pick was Julie Christie for Away From Her; although this is probably because I’m still harboring a crush on her from her 1965 role as Lara in Doctor Zhivago. But frankly, I did not see Cotillard’s homage to the troubled Edith Piaf, and I don’t know anyone who did.

    More to the point, however, this had to have been the biggest upset of the night. Especially since I thought the Academy would have deemed Christie even more deserving of an Oscar than Ruby Dee. Go figure….

    · The Oscar for Best Documentary feature goes to:

    TAXI TO THE DARK SIDE. My Pick was the other anti-war documentary, No End In Sight. In fact, this category was a toss-up between these two films, which should surprise no one who knows anything about the anti-Bush sentiment that permeates Hollywood.

    My only hope was that the members of the Academy would not reward that fat “sicko” Michael Moore for his clichéd portrayal of the US healthcare system, which despite it’s shortcomings is the best in the world!

    · The Oscar for Actor in Leading Role goes to:

    My Pick – DANIEL DAY-LEWIS for There Will Be Blood. As sure bets go, Day-Lewis was it. Not only is he that good, but his fellow actors appear to be that deferential.

    Though, I suspect some actors must find his notorious “method acting” - of staying in character 24/7 during the making of a movie – tiresome, if not irritating. After all, isn’t having the ability to go in and out of character whenever the director shouts “Action!” and “Cut!” the key to acting…?

    At any rate, it’s too bad this role only required him to play a mercenary oil man with no redeeming human values whatsoever: “bastard from a basket” indeed….

    · The Oscar for Best Director goes to:

    My pick – the COEN BROTHERS for No Country for Old Men.

    · The Oscar for Best Picture goes to:

    My pick – NO COUNTRY FOR OLD MEN. And, with their win for Writing (Adapted for Screenplay), the Coen brothers were clearly the night’s big winners!

    Furthermore, given their prolific and eclectic body of work, which includes such films as Raising Arizona, Blood Simple and Fargo, they are becoming as sure a bet for directing as Day-Lewis has become for acting.

    With that, I won four of the seven awards I gambled on, which I suspect compares rather favorably with picks by professional critics.Of course, it would be remiss of me not to share my pick for the best dressed rong>. Accordingly:· The Oscar for Best Dressed goes to:

    RUBY DEE for looking so poised, elegant, and even sexy despite being older (at 83) than Oscar himself!

    Finally, the show’s best moment was when host Stewart invited the female winner of the Oscar for Best Song back on stage to give her thank-you speech. This, after her “arrogant” male partner took up all of their allotted time. And, not surprisingly, she gave the best speech of the night – stressing the theme of hope in the arts that Barack Obama has made so en vogue in politics.

    That’s a wrap!

  • Saturday, February 23, 2008 at 1:42 PM

    My picks for this year’s Oscars

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    The following are my picks for this year’s Oscars in the only categories anyone really cares about:

    · Actor in a Leading Role:

    DANIEL DAY-LEWIS for There Will Be Blood

    · Actor in a Supporting Role:

    JAVIER BARDEM for No Country For Old Men

    · Actress in a Leading Role:

    JULIE CHRISTIE for Away From Her

    · Actress in a Supporting Role:

    RUBY DEE for American Gangster

    · Director:

    COEN BROTHERS for No Country for Old Men

    · Best Picture:

    NO COUNTRY FOR OLD MEN

    · Documentary feature

    NO END IN SIGHT

    · As for the other awards, who cares?

    The 80th Annual Academy Awards will be presented tomorrow (Sunday) night. Therefore, check back on Monday for my review of the show, and to see how well I did….

  • Friday, February 22, 2008 at 10:20 AM

    Random thoughts: Serbia, John McCain, John Kerry, Hillary vs. Obama

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    Serbs torch US Embassy

    Over 150,000 Serbs took to the streets in Belgrade yesterday to protest the US-led recognition of their former province of Kosovo as an independent state. Unfortunately, a few hooligans ended what was a very peaceful march by torching the US and other western embassies.

    Never mind that they probably have no clue why Kosovo is a cause worth rioting for…

    Alas, this boneheaded episode merely reflects Serbia’s uncanny tendency to always find a way to cut its nose to spite its face. Or perhaps that tendency is to bite the hand that feeds it.

    After all, for many years now, the US has been the biggest donor and guarantor of aid to Serbia. And this is the case despite Serbia’s hollow and self-defeating fraternization with oil-rich Russia, the Machiavellian enabler of its misguided anti-Americanism.

    At any rate, instead of eliciting international support for their cause, the protesters only incited worldwide outrage and condemnation. Not to mention that their relatively impoverished government will now have to expend scarce resources repairing damage to the embassy and surrounding buildings; or that the only person killed in their attacks was a fellow Serb.

    John McCain’s sex for legislation scandal

    Yesterday, instead of being heralded as the presumptive Republican nominee for president of the United States, Sen. John McCain was being hoisted by his own petard.

    Because, having based his entire career on his public and personal integrity, the New York Times published a damning report calling into question not only his political ethics but also his marital fidelity.

    In short, the Times reports that big corporations hired a young blonde to pimp out as a lobbyist in Washington, DC. And that of all of the politicians who became her “Johns,” McCain was most noteworthy for the legislative favors he provided in exchange for her services.

    Of course, he denies every fact and insinuation in this report. Specifically, he and his defenders insist that he “never betrayed any public trust.” Indeed, to be fair to McCain, he always said he never took money from lobbyists. But he never said anything about sex; which brings me to his wife Cindy.

    Because as I watched his “I did not have sex with that woman” press conference yesterday, I was drawn to the way she was standing by her man, literally. Yet I could not help thinking that she looked the way Sen. Larry Craig’s wife looked as she stood by her man during his “I am not gay” press conference a few months ago.

    On the other hand, perhaps in due course she will emulate Hillary Clinton by blaming her husband’s alleged affair on a vast left-wing conspiracy….

    John Kerry, international statesman

    It looms as an ironic fate that Obama may be the one to frustrate Kerry’s last chance to fulfill his presidential ambitions….Now Kerry will probably be remembered only as the man who plucked Obama from obscurity in the summer of 2004 and placed him center stage at that fateful Democratic convention…. And the rest is history.

    [Run Obama Run, The iPINIONS Journal, October 24, 2006]

    Most politicians would probably hold an eternal grudge after being upstaged the way Barack Obama has upstaged John Kerry in recent years. But I’m happy to report that Kerry has taken being relegated to the dustbin of presidential history rather well.

    In fact, he was the first of Obama’s Senate colleagues to endorse his candidacy earlier this year. Moreover, given his current world tour to hotspots like Afghanistan and Pakistan, Kerry has clearly joined the ranks of those actively auditioning to serve as secretary of state in an Obama administration.

    And, frankly, a President Obama could do a lot worse. Here’s to Secretary Kerry!

    Hillary vs. Obama in Texas debate


    I feel obliged to remind you that we’re not electing the leader of a debating society. Because, if that were the case, Hillary would be the runaway winner.Therefore, don’t be swayed by the media’s focus on who landed the most blows. After all, these debates are staged more to entertain political pundits than to inform ordinary voters.

    For what it’s worth, however, I thought Obama prevailed….

    [Obama-Day Tuesday…South Carolina, The iPINIONS Journal, January 22, 2008]

    Ditto last night’s CNN debate in Texas. Indeed, the fact that Obama won the second consecutive one-on-one debate with Hillary indicates that he has now surpassed her not only in pledged delegates but also in debating points.

    More significantly, nothing demonstrated Hillary’s resignation in this respect quite like the way she ended this debate; i.e., by effectively conceding the nomination as follows:

    I am honored to be here with Barack Obama. I am absolutely honored. And whatever happens we will be absolutely fine….

    All the same, Obama must have read my commentary on the South Carolina debate. Because even though Hillary has been hounding him to agree to weekly debates, he has insisted that, after 18 already, one more is enough. Hear, hear!

  • Thursday, February 21, 2008 at 9:39 AM

    Musharraf suffers a humiliating blow at the polls

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    Pakistanis dealt President Pervez Musharraf’s de facto dictatorship a humiliating blow in Monday’s parliamentary elections by voting – in overwhelming numbers – for the opposition parties of two former prime ministers, namely: the late Benazir Bhutto’s Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) and Nawaz Sharif’s Pakistan Muslim League (PML-N).

    Moreover, the PPP and PML-N – with 87 and 66 seats, respectively – now command a decisive two-thirds majority in Pakistan’s 229-seat parliament, which gives them (along with smaller opposition parties) the constitutional authority to impeach Musharraf – as Sharif has vowed to do.

    The result will be the voice of the nation and whosoever wins we should accept it – that includes myself. [Musharraf on the eve of elections…]

    But frankly, this result should have surprised no one. After all, here’s what I wrote last August about how Musharraf and his Pakistan Muslim League (PML-Q) would fare in free and fair elections:

    Bush and Musharraf are acutely aware that Musharraf does not stand a snowball’s chance in hell of winning a free and fair election in Pakistan. And nothing assured them of his ignominious defeat quite like yesterday’s Supreme Court decision to allow the man he deposed, the exiled Sharif, to return home, without prejudice.

    In fact, the PML-Q ended up with only 40 seats.

    Nevertheless, rumors of Musharraf’s demise are greatly exaggerated – especially given the unconditional aid and comfort he can count on from democracy’s avenging angel, US President George W. Bush. Indeed, Bush himself is a living example of how an unpopular president can survive parliamentary maneuvers by a hostile congress (or parliament) that would like nothing more than to impeach him.

    More importantly, even though he may be “the most hated man in the country,” Musharraf retains deep loyalties among Pakistan’s military leaders. And, of course, their unqualified support is indispensable to any new prime minister who has delusions about ousting their former commander in chief – the man to whom many of them owe their military careers.

    Not to mention that there’s no guarantee the PPP and PML-N will be able to put aside long-standing hostilities long enough to mount a joint political coup d’état. And here’s what I wrote last December about this unlikely prospect:

    Nothing justifies Musharraf’s dictatorship quite like the chaos among the country’s opposition parties…. Sharif and Bhutto have discovered that the only politician they hate more than Musharraf is each other…. Instead of leading a joint boycott of parliamentary elections in January – as both vowed to do, they have decided to lead their respective parties to the polls.

    Therefore, I fully expect Musharraf to exploit tensions among his political foes to maintain a firm, even if not quite dictatorial, grip on power. In the interim, however, chances are very good that internecine warfare will continue to define political life in Pakistan.

    Meanwhile, the BBC reported yesterday that senior members of victorious PPP were shocked when Bhutto’s widower, Asif Ali Zardari, rejected their offer to become prime minister, by acclamation, in a new coalition government.

    And, who can blame them – for deferring to Zardari and for being shocked? After all, Bhutto herself effectively appointed Zardari by bequeathing the PPP leadership to him in her will. How’s that for democracy…?

    Nonetheless, in addition to predicting the PPP’s parliamentary triumph in my December commentary, I also predicted Zardari’s refusal to serve as follows:

    Despite his firebrand political rhetoric, Zardari made it clear that he has no interest in succeeding his wife – as a martyr-in-waiting for her cause. Indeed, he seems quite happy to continue living the good life in Dubai (on the billions of dollars many Pakistanis suspect he embezzled by skimming off “10 percent commissions on government contracts” during his wife’s two terms as prime minister).

    So, as the party now haggles to find a substitute candidate, let the bloodletting begin – within the PPP and with other emboldened opposition parties….

    Related Articles:
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  • Wednesday, February 20, 2008 at 10:08 AM

    Obama marches on…but his wife may prove "a bigger challenge than Hillary?"

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    Notwithstanding all of the hyperventilating political punditry, there is little that is newsworthy about Barack Obama winning today’s presidential primaries in Wisconsin and Hawaii.

    However, it is noteworthy that he has now beaten Hillary Clinton in ten consecutive primaries. And that this puts him in the best possible position to really challenge her, and perhaps even knock her out of the race, in the “big state” primaries of Texas, Ohio, and Pennsylvania on March 4.

    On the other hand, Obama’s wife, Michelle, made a lot of news. Unfortunately, none of it was good. And it all stems from a seemingly innocent statement she made yesterday (and has made on many other occasions during this campaign) about finally being proud to be an American.

    At any rate, here’s what she said, which has so delighted Obama’s critics that even John McCain’s Barbie-doll wife Cindy (pictured below) felt emboldened to take a political shot at Michelle today:

    For the first time in my adult lifetime, I’m really proud of my country … not just because Barack has done well, but because I think people are hungry for change…. I have been desperate to see our country moving in that direction and just not feeling so alone in my frustration and disappointment.

    Now, even though I know I’m not the only die-hard Obama supporter who is confounded and disappointed by this statement, I’m probably the only one who will publish anything to this effect.

    Nevertheless, I am acutely aware that no matter how many times his campaign spinmeisters try to clarify it, his critics will have a field day tarring Michelle as an unhinged, ungrateful, and unpatriotic woman (i.e., one unsuitable to become the first lady of the United States).

    Not to mention that what she said echoes, ironically, the polarizing rhetoric of black victimology. Indeed, this language unwittingly associates Obama with Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson in ways that Bill and Hillary only dreamed of doing.

    That said, no one believes Michelle is unhinged, ungrateful, or unpatriotic. Nor that she might become as big a problem for Barack as Bill has become for Hillary. In fact, I believe she is still a tremendous asset to his campaign and will be the most dynamic, intelligent and, yes, patriotic first lady in the history of the United States.

    In the meantime, however, it’s imperative that she and Barack appreciate how much potential there is for Republicans to create politically damaging, if not damning, mischief with this statement. Because no matter what she intended, without prompt and proper clarification, they will use her words (and commensurate caricatures of her) against him, and quite effectively too….

    Therefore, I urge Michelle, not Barack, to clarify her remarks; if not tonight at his victory rally, then on all of the early morning shows tomorrow. And I hope her political handlers do not persuade her that it’s unnecessary.

    After all, that would be every bit as impudent as Bush’s advisers persuading him that it’s unpresidential to apologize for any of his mistakes.

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    * OBAMA ’08: To learn more about this extraordinary presidential candidate, and to contribute to his audacious campaign, please click here.

    *Published originally Tuesday at 8:54 pm

  • Tuesday, February 19, 2008 at 9:39 PM

    Bush seals his presidential legacy…in Africa

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    To whom much is given, much is required. America has a moral obligation to help the suffering….

    This is how President Bush explained his mission to combat HIV/AIDS, malaria, and poverty on the continent of Africa in an interview on NBC yesterday.

    It is noteworthy, however, that he can distinguish his religious rhetoric in this respect from that of any other world leader, including his predecessor Bill Clinton. Because Bush has put American money (and lots of it) where his mouth is.

    Yet, even as some Africans are showering him with thanks and praises at every stop on his current tour, others are dismissing his mission as little more than a last-minute shopping spree to buy a presidential legacy. And no one expressed this cynicism – of unimpressed and ungrateful Africans – quite the way one man did in a BBC report on Bush’s trip:

    Bush’s visit is belated and unnecessary as it comes at the twilight of his administration.

    [Ashipa James Olashupo, Abuja, Nigeria]

    Of course, there’s no denying that Bush is hoping his humanitarian legacy in Africa will offset, if not redeem, his warmongering legacy in Iraq. Nevertheless, his critics (especially spiteful, resentful, do-nothing Europeans) are wrong to suggest, as this African has, that he only found religion where Africa is concerned this year; i.e., the last of his presidency.

    After all, since February 2005, I’ve been commenting on Bush’s African initiatives, which date back to his Millennium Challenge Account for African Development (in 2002) and his $15 billion Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (2003).

    Indeed, the reason news reports indicate that he’s more popular in Africa than anywhere else is that millions of Africans have either benefited personally or witnessed the life-saving impact of his well-funded policies.

    For example, five years ago, only 50,000 people were receiving medicine to treat HIV/AIDS. Today, more than 1.3 million are courtesy of Bush’s initiative. Not to mention the good news he brought about doubling US aid to $30 billion.

    Still, his critics argue that juxtaposed to the $1 trillion he spent waging war in Iraq, this $30 billion is mere pittance. But this is a specious point, which actually betrays their Bush-can-do-no-right pathology.

    After all, even with the albatross of Iraq around his neck, Bush made these unprecedented humanitarian commitments. By contrast, even as their countries enjoyed unprecedented levels of prosperity, no world leader has come close to matching his interest in and foreign aid to Africa.

    I appreciate how incomprehensible it is that Bush’s financial and humanitarian aid to Africa might have almost as much influence in determining his presidential legacy as the war in Iraq….

    Nevertheless, as one who has been pleading for decades for American presidents to back up their rhetoric about African development with more direct investments, I believe it’s imperative to give Bush his due. Accordingly, I feel constrained to end this
    improbable paean to him by writing: “I told you so!”

    [“Bush has done more for Africa than any other US president,” The iPINIONS Journal, January 3, 2007]

    Meanwhile, apropos juxtaposition, not far from where Africans are hailing Bush as a savior, Arab militiamen are slaughtering other Africans in Darfur, Sudan. Even so, Bush has distinguished himself in this context as well. Because he was the first world leader to call this slaughter “genocide” in 2005.

    All the same, persistent indifference to the killing fields of Darfur troubled me so much that I sounded this alarm in May 2006:

    Unless President Bush amasses a coalition more willing to intervene in Darfur than the coalition he amassed to invade Iraq, the casualties from this genocide will soon make what happened in Rwanda seem like an ordinary drive-by shooting in South Central, LA. And, it’s all happening with our eyes wide shut!

    [“Save Darfur Rally: Full of sound and fury signifying nothing,” The iPINIONS Journal, May 2, 2006]

    Alas, there’s only so much one man can do. Therefore, I suggest Olashupo and Bush’s other African detractors (like South African President Thabo Mbeki) direct their criticism inward at the failure of African leadership not only in Darfur, but also in Kenya, Zimbabwe, Nigeria, DR Congo….

    Finally, much has been said, and justifiably so, about the double standards that govern US foreign policy. And that it has had diplomatic and trade relations with communist China and Russia while enforcing a 49-year embargo against Cuba stands as a glaring example in this respect.

    By the same token, however, much can be said about the schizophrenia foreign governments present in their dealings with the US. And that African governments have lobbied Bush to intervene more aggressively in Darfur while rejecting even the notion of Africom (i.e., permanent US bases strategically located throughout the continent to promote peace and facilitate humanitarian aid) stands as a glaring example in this respect.

    NOTE: I suspect “Kosovars” might take exception to reports that Bush is more popular today in Africa than he is in Kosovo. (See related articles for the reasons why….)

    ENDNOTE: Given the mess he created in Iraq, I knew years ago that Bush would end up as a lame-duck president in search of a legacy. That’s why – in a January 2006 commentary (here) – I urged him to seal his legacy by lifting the embargo on Cuba.

    In a similar vain, I admonished Cuban exiles – in an August 2006 commentary (here) and in a September 2007 one (here) – against false hopes that the end of Castro’s rule would spring forth a new era of democracy and a yearning for their return. And, in light of today’s wholly anticlimactic announcement of his resignation, it would be instructive to read (or re-read) both of them.

    Related Articles:
    Tribal warfare erupts in Kenya<
    /span>

    Save Darfur, but what about Zimbabwe
    Conflict in DR Congo
    Bush says ‘enough is enough. Kosovo is independent
    Recognizing Kosovo independence

  • Monday, February 18, 2008 at 1:03 PM

    Happy Presidents’ Day

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    One can be forgiven the impression that “Presidents’ Day” is just another jingoistic inducement for Americans to go shopping for mattresses and GMC trucks. Whereas, in fact, this holiday was inaugurated with profound reverence in 1796, when a grateful new nation honored its first president and revolutionary war hero, George Washington, by making his birthday, February 22, a national holiday.

    Of course, it’s a testament to Washington’s extraordinary character and accomplishments that no other president was accorded this honor until it was bestowed on 12 February 1892 upon Abraham Lincoln, the man who “preserved the union through its darkest hour:” the American Civil War. (Granted, lingering sympathy and regret over his assassination at Ford’s Theater on April 14, 1965 probably inspired the honor.)

    Since then, however, Americans have considered no other president sufficiently worthy; notwithstanding that they have sculpted the faces of two of them (namely, Thomas Jefferson and Theodore Roosevelt) into Mount Rushmore along with those of Washington and Lincoln.

    (Indeed, it’s also a testament to the extraordinary character and accomplishments of Dr Martin Luther King Jr., that he’s the only other American to have a federal holiday – the third Monday in January – declared in his name.)

    At any rate, in 1968, Congress passed the Uniform Holidays Bill, which combined Washington and Lincoln’s holiday into the one we celebrate so perversely today….

    NOTE: My choice of presidents to grace Mount Rushmore II: Franklin D. Roosevelt, Harry S. Truman, Lyndon B. Johnson and Ronald W. Reagan. Yours?

  • Sunday, February 17, 2008 at 2:18 PM

    Recognizing (or lamenting) Kosovo Independence…

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    Kosovo citizens today await an independent, sovereign and democratic country, a state for all with equal rights. [Prime Minister Hashim Thaci – pictured here (center) leading Kosovo’s Independence Day march earlier today]

    Nine years after US-led NATO forces “liberated” them from their “Serb oppressors,” Kosovo’s ethnic Albanians will convene a special session of their provincial assembly today to declare Independence from Serbia. And, in so doing, they will defy not only the Serbs but also their Russian enablers, both of whom vowed this day would never come.

    Notwithstanding their protestations, however, the Serbs had to know there was little they could do to stem the inexorable tide of history, which this move reflects. After all, as the Financial Times notes:

    Kosovo will be the sixth state carved from the former Serbian-dominated Yugoslav federation since 1991, after Slovenia, Croatia, Macedonia, Bosnia and Montenegro.

    Nevertheless, Serbian leaders warn that there will be:

    …an ‘energetic response’ against the United States and EU countries which might recognize Kosovo’s independence.

    In fact, Serbia’s parliament passed a resolution last August threatening to cut ties with any country that recognizes an independent Kosovo. Which, of course, seems (pathologically?) self-defeating, if not laughable, for a country desperately seeking political and economic ties…no?Frankly, despite my intimate sympathies with the Serbs, even I knew this day would come. Therefore, to recognize the occasion, I shall suffice to republish my April 4, 2007 commentary titled Kosovo: wither Serbia’s Alamo, in which I lamented, though predicted, this day.—————————-

    Twenty-five years ago, the British considered the Falkland Islands so vital to their sovereignty that they dispatched their armada to assert dominion over them. They did so because the islanders were poised to pledge allegiance to neighboring Argentina. Never mind that the Falklands were little more than a bleak and desolate cluster of islands situated 8,000 miles away.

    Therefore, it smacks of rank hypocrisy for the British to stand as the leading voice in Europe denouncing the Serbs for considering Kosovo so vital to their national sovereignty that they are threatening to deploy their army to assert dominion over it. And they are doing so because ethnic Albanians are poised to declare Kosovo an independent state.

    After all, Kosovo embodies as much historical, cultural and religious significance for the Serbs as Mecca holds for the Saudis. Moreover, it happens to be situated within Serbia’s universally recognized borders; i.e., not thousands of miles away.

    Nevertheless, there was already virtual unanimity going into debate at the United Nations yesterday on a proposal to endorse the Albanians’ claim as the “final status” for Kosovo under international law. In fact, here’s how the foreign minister of Serbia ’s perennial European nemesis, Germany, expressed his country’s undisguised schadenfreude over the prospect of independence for Kosovo:

    It’s never the case that all European partners have the same opinion in advance….That’s how it is in the Kosovo question. [German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier]

    Alas, the only speed bump those jumping on this anti-Serbia bandwagon are likely to encounter will be over what price Russia and China will demand (from the US and EU) to get on board.

    Yet, as remarkable as European consensus on Kosovo may be, it pales in comparison to the unprecedented consensus among congenitally fractious Serbs on the question of keeping Kosovo within Serbia. Indeed, here’s how Serbia’s religious leaders expressed their nation’s wholly forlorn mission to preserve this union:

    [B]lackened minds want to change the status of Kosovo, our whole history, culture and statehood. [His Holiness Patriarch Pavle (92), 44th successor to the Throne of St Sava]

    I’m calling on Russia, as the biggest Christian country, but also on China, to use their power of veto in the U.N. Security Council to prevent a crime against the Serbian people….The Serbs will never give up Kosovo. [Archbishop Amfilohije, a leader of Serbia’s Orthodox Church]

    Unfortunately, the international military and political forces aligned against the Serbs are such that they would be better served by having their religious leaders lead them in serene prayers of acceptance than by having their political leaders lead them in jingoistic cries of defiance over Kosovo. After all, it will take a miracle for them to retain any control over this province when all is said and done.Indeed, defying the myth that all Serbs are pathologically nationalistic, it is telling that many of the 200,000 Serbs (compared to the 2 million Albanians) now living in Kosovo are not only packing up their bags, but also digging up the graves of loved ones to relocate to what little remains of “Mother Serbia” today.That said, given that most readers of this weblog are Americans, it would be remiss of me not to acknowledge the truly balkanized nature of this debate. Because the only thing most Americans know about Kosovo, or the Balkans for that matter, they probably gleaned from TV-news reports about ethnic cleansing, which invariably portrayed the Serbs as neo-Nazis committing genocidal crimes against Muslims.

    However, this is not the forum, nor am I qualified, to reconcile the competing versions of history that the polyglot of ethnic and religious groups proffers to rationalize or lament the current state of affairs in the Balkans. Nevertheless, I believe it is fair to assert that the victims of ethnic cleansing were too often perpetrators and/or beneficiaries of ethnic cleansing themselves. Specifically, the only reason Serbs are fleeing Kosovo today is because they reasonably fear that the atrocities Albanians have been committing against them since 1999 – right under nose of UN protection forces – will only worsen once the UN confers independence.

    Meanwhile, it’s bad enough that most Americans are as ignorant about the origins and nature of the (religious and ethnic) conflicts that b
    lew Yugoslavia asunder as they are about similar factors that are now blowing Iraq asunder.

    But it must add salt to the wounded pride of all Serbs when even relatively informed Americans make statements about the status of Kosovo that reek of patent bias.

    After all, this betrays not only America’s historical ties to Serbia but also the founding principles of American democracy. Yet this is precisely what no less an influential politician than Sen. Joseph Biden (D-DE), Chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, has done in championing the cause of Kosovo independence:

    [A]droit diplomacy to secure Kosovo’s independence could yield a victory for Muslim democracy, a better future for south-east Europe and validation for the judicious use of American power.

    Nationalist politicians in Belgrade have embraced the fight against Kosovo’s independence to divert public attention from their own failures and Serbia’s stalled bid for European Union membership. The actions of Vojislav Kostunica, Serbia’s prime minister have been particularly disappointing. [Op Ed in Financial Times dated 2 January 2007]

    On the other hand, the Serbs could not have tailored a more ideally suited ambassador than Ivan Vujacic to represent their interests in the United States. Because no ambassador in Washington has been more adept than he at matching political wits with self-righteous American politicians – and on their own terms.Indeed, that Ambassador Vujacic has managed this feat with enviable diplomatic tact, while defending what most foreign-policy experts assert is his country’s unsustainable position on Kosovo, is quite extraordinary. For example, even though he probably sympathizes with the critical mass of progressive Serbs who lament the inevitability of Kosovo independence, here’s how the Ambassador defended the pyrrhic aspirations of nationalists back home against Biden’s pronouncements on Kosovo:

    The truth of the matter is that Kosovo has a dismal record regarding basic security, the rule of law and respect for property and human rights for non-Albanians. Democracy should be universal and not ethnic, nor based on religion. Should the threat of violence be rewarded by a quick move to independence or is Kosovo just a propaganda tool for the Muslim world as Senator Biden seems to suggest?

    Serbia expects that the principles of international law and the UN Charter should be adhered to. It does not believe that a democratic nation should be dismembered. It has stated so publicly. Surely, this is not conspiracy. [Op Ed in Financial Times dated 8 January 2007]

    Touché. Frankly, if Biden – infamous as he is for plagiarizing the glib words of British politicians – had any real political integrity, Ambassador Vujacic’s rebuttal would have compelled him to acknowledge at least having some political scruples about his cocksure declarations on Kosovo.Of course, it will be interesting to see how white Americans react in 50 years when ethnic Mexicans in California (who will probably outnumber them 10:1 by then) push for independence (to annex it to Mexico, much as Serbs suspect ethnic Albanians want to annex Kosovo to their big-brother state, Albania). Because, then, I have no doubt that American politicians will be proffering the arguments of Ambassador Vucjacic, not those of Sen. Biden, to defend the territorial integrity of the United States of America.____________________

    NOTE: The UN, most notably the US and EU, will recognize Kosovo. More important, a NATO peacekeeping force, which, significantly, includes American and British soldiers, will ensure that Serbs limit their protests to bellicose rhetoric.

    But frankly, as much as they cherish historic religious ties with Kosovo, Serbs clearly covet future economic ties with Europe much more – albeit begrudgingly. Also, no matter how much their Slav brothers in Russia foment their pyrrhic claims on Kosovo, Serbs appear no more interested in being the political and economic bedfellows of Russians today than they were during the height of the Cold War.

    Therefore, I predict that, after a Slavic period of mourning, Serbs will come to terms with the loss of Kosovo.

    Related Articles:
    Serbs cry uncle over Kosovo
    Brief history of former Yugoslavia

  • Saturday, February 16, 2008 at 1:41 PM

    A Native American for president of the United States? Imagine the ironic and historic symbolism that would present…

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

  • Friday, February 15, 2008 at 11:40 AM

    Today is the 3rd Anniversary of The iPINIONS Journal!

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    Today is the third anniversary of The iPINIONS Journal, which is quite a feat considering I did not think it would survive three months.

    Therefore, I would like to mark the occasion by thanking all of you for your support.

    But I give a special note of thanks to those who not only read my articles but also take time to e-mail comments (including critical ones). And my heartfelt gratitude and appreciation goes out to the few loyal readers who have supported me from day one.

    I launched this journal after a colleague persuaded that it would be a convenient way to share thoughts about current events within my small circle of friends. Indeed, I suspect many of you can relate to having such busy lives that you communicate primarily by e-mails, and debate issues more often on blogs than in personal gatherings.

    I was too ignorant about the pervasive nature of the blogosphere, however, to appreciate its potential for disseminating my daily musings to every corner of the earth. And I’ve been humbled and honored by the interest so many people outside my inner-circle have shown in them.

    Therefore, here’s to what I hope will be another year of my dutiful rendering and your faithful reading of my daily “iPinions.”

    Anthony

    NOTE: I invariably upload rough drafts of my commentaries early, and then edit them later in the day as my professional obligations permit. Unfortunately, I was unable to edit yesterday’s commentary on Roger Clemens because my Google publishing platform was down all day. Below now is the edited version. Sorry….

    Related Articles:

  • Thursday, February 14, 2008 at 9:30 AM

    Forget the Hall of Fame, Clemens may have played his way into prison

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    Steroid use has flourished in Baseball (and in other professional sports) pursuant to an open conspiracy between players and team owners to feed the gladiatorial lust of fans who want to see bigger, stronger and faster cyborgs perform for their atavistic enjoyment.

    [Bonds should be cheered, not jeered, as new home-run king]

    Plausible deniability is the Washington fiction that involves creating enough distance between the powerful who order nefarious deeds and the grunts who execute them to allow the powerful to deny any involvement if the shit hits the fan.

    And as I watched highlights of Roger Clemens testifying before Congress yesterday, it occurred to me that this seven-time winner of the Cy Young Award as the best pitcher in baseball could have benefited from this fiction.

    Because the more he said, the more he incriminated himself – not only on the settled charge of taking illegal performance enhancing drugs, but also on the looming charge of perjury and obstruction of justice.

    Whereas, since he was not legally required to testify, he could have avoided this inevitable entrapment by issuing a well-crafted statement denying the charges and dismissing – as a pack of lies – everything his chief accuser and former personal trainer, Brian McNamee, said. And, given that it was already established in sworn depositions and, more importantly, in the media – that McNamee is a professional opportunist and pathological liar, Clemens’ plausible deniability was virtually guaranteed.

    Instead of creating this distance (physically and in terms of personal character), however, Clemens put his reputation, Hall of Fame candidacy and personal freedom on the line by agreeing to sit at a defendants’ table with McNamee in this high-stakes, but ultimately futile, congressional hearing to clear his name.

    They spent four hours testifying and fielding redundant and patently partisan questions from members of Congress. Yet I can sum up the entire hearing as follows:

    McNamee claimed that he injected Clemens with steroids dozens of times. Clemens insisted that the only thing McNamee ever injected into his butt was vitamin B-12, which is almost as unbelievable as Barry Bonds insisting that the only thing his trainer ever injected into his was flaxseed oil. And when all was said and done, one congressman rendered the virtually unanimous verdict by exclaiming “I don’t know who to believe!”

    Remarkably, Clemens seemed acutely aware that the whole exercise would be a waste of time. After all, here’s what he said in his opening statement:

    I have never taken steroids or HGH. No matter what we discuss here today, I am never going to have my name restored.

    Which begs the question: Then why play this game and expose not only yourself, but also your juiced-up wife to legal jeopardy and public ridicule? (McNamee claimed that Clemens even had him inject his wife, Debbie, with steroids….) This, especially since his high-priced lawyers must have warned him about the perjury trap….

    In fact, no one will ever prove in a court of law that Clemens took steroids. However, there’s a school of lawyers now combing through his testimony for “inconsistent” statements to hold against him.

    For the record, I believe McNamee. Primarily because Clemens’ best friend and former teammate Andy Pettitte, as well as another former teammate, corroborated McNamee’s testimony, which makes this far more than a case of he said, he said.

    Nevertheless, the precedent Congress set last year by giving Rafael Palmeiro a walk after he lied under oath about taking steroids bodes well for Clemens.

    Even more intriguing, however, is the prospect that, if Clemens is not charged, lawyers for the indicted Barry Bonds would have just cause to argue jury nullification; i.e., that even if the jury finds that Bonds lied about taking steroids (and I believe he did), it should acquit him anyway since none of the other (white) players who lied about taking them were even charged.

    Related Articles:
    Lies about steroids keeps Mark McGwire out of Hall of Fame
    Mitchell Report implicates Clemens and many other players
    Barry Bonds indicted

  • Wednesday, February 13, 2008 at 11:40 AM

    Obama extends primary sweep(stakes) up and down the Potomac

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    In January, when most political pundits were asserting that the race for the Democratic nomination would be over by Super Tuesday (on February 5), I admonished you to ignore them.

    Of course, given Barack Obama’s winning streak in primaries and caucuses all over the country since then, I appreciate how tempting it is now for everyone to believe that he has the nomination all wrapped up. And his sweeping victories in the Potomac primaries in Maryland, Virginia, and DC yesterday only adds credence to this tantalizing prospect.

    But I’m afraid Obama still has many potholes to overcome on the road to this nomination. Not to mention the extremes to which the Clintons have yet to go to deny him this honor.

    For the record, Obama or Hillary needs 2,025 delegates to clinch the nomination. And, according to the Associated Press, he has 1,222 delegates and she 1,198 – a virtual tie despite his eight-consecutive victories.

    Therefore, I feel obliged to admonish you again to ignore all of the punditry about who is leading the delegate count, or who has the biggest crowds at campaign events, or who has the most women, men, black, white, or Latino supporters.

    Ignore the political spin about Hillary righting her ship – complete with a shake-up of her campaign staff – for a (Giuliani-like) last stand in the “big state” primaries of Texas, Ohio (on March 4) and Pennsylvania (on April 22).

    And, ignore the hype about Obama’s messianic and inexorable momentum….

    Because, when all is said and done, neither Obama nor Hillary will have enough delegates to clinch the nomination before the Democratic convention convenes this August in Denver, Colorado. And it will be truly interesting to see how the Party resolves this nomination deadlock at that convention.

    Meanwhile, you’ve probably heard talking heads on TV spouting off about the pivotal role “superdelegates” will play at a “brokered convention.” There are 796 superdelegates comprised of members of the Democratic National Committee, all Democratic members of Congress, Democratic governors, and distinguished party members, including former U.S. presidents, vice presidents or former congressional leaders. More to the point, however, they have free reign to choose whichever candidate they like best.

    Nevertheless, I think the prospect of a bunch of politicians and “distinguished party leaders” deciding this race is grossly exaggerated. In fact, I’m convinced that the person who goes into the convention with the most pledged delegates (i.e., those duly won in the primaries and caucuses) will be the nominee. This, notwithstanding reports that the Clintons are already bribing superdelegates – with cold cash and promises of plum jobs in “Hillary’s Administration” – in exchange for their endorsement at the convention.

    Of course, it’s just another indication of the Clintons’ venality that they are banking on superdelegates overturning the “will of the people”; i.e., only if Hillary ends up with fewer pledged delegates than Obama.

    But Donna Brazile, former Chair of the Democratic National Committee’s Voting Rights Institute, warned that a civil war will erupt if superdelegates vote to give the nomination to the candidate with fewer pledged delegates.

    If 795 of my colleagues [i.e., superdelegates] decide this election, I will quit the Democratic Party. I feel very strongly about this.

    The really bad omen for the Clintons, however, is the number of their erstwhile, die-hard supporters who are now jumping ship to catch the Obama wave. And no one personifies this political opportunism quite like civil rights firebrand Rev. Al Sharpton. In fact, he testified to his belated conversion just yesterday by decrying the Clintons’ race-baiting campaign strategy – of fomenting enmity amongst whites and Hispanics for Obama – as “politricks,” and vowed that he will not stand for it….

    The Democratic Party can prevent this internecine battle, however, by apportioning superdelegates based on the percentage of pledged delegates each candidate wins. And no one personifies this political principle quite like civil rights pioneer Rep. John Lewis (D-GA). In fact, he declared just last night that – even though he endorsed Hillary’s candidacy (and I forgive him for that) – he will cast his superdelegate vote for Obama at the convention because Obama is the candidate his constituents voted for in the Georgia primary.

    That said, it is far more interesting and relevant to speculate on what will happen once the nominee is determined. Because on the one hand, if it’s Hillary, she will have no choice but to choose Obama as her VP running mate. And, no matter what he says about this prospect today, I think he’ll accept the offer in a heartbeat. After all, nothing could prepare him, or set him up better, to succeed President Hillary than serving as Vice President Obama for the next eight years.

    On the other hand, if it’s Obama, he would be loath to choose Hillary, and she would be even more loath to accept. After all, that would be like Aretha Franklin agreeing to go on tour as the opening act for Beyonce. Besides, Obama’s ticket would be even more formidable if he were to choose a white guy from the conservative wing of the Party as his running mate.

    As for the Republicans, John McCain has clinched the nomination. Yet Mike Huckabee seems determined to pester his aura of invincibility for weeks, if not months to come.

    But how’s this for interesting and relevant speculation: Whether he’s facing Obama or Hillary (or, God help him, both), McCain will have to choose a woman or a minority to compete in November. Therefore, given the momentary vindication of the troop surge in Iraq, which he credits for his political resurgence, he would do well to choose Condoleezza Rice as his VP running mate….

    At any rate, I remain as convince
    d today that Barack Obama will be the next president of the United States as I was when I endorsed him here in October 2006. And this is the case no matter who McCain chooses as his running mate.

    NOTE: Am I the only one who wonders how Obama will sustain this wave of support for his candidacy all the way to Election Day? After all, with 24/7 media coverage of his everyone word, I fear familiarity might breed contempt. (Really, how inspiring can it be to see him deliver the same speech for the umpteenth time…?)

    Indeed, I suspect the only reason JFK and RFK were so appealing is that voters saw so little, and knew even less, of them….

    Related Articles:

    Super Tuesday…

    * OBAMA ’08: To learn more about this extraordinary presidential candidate, and to contribute to his audacious campaign, please click here.

  • Thursday, February 7, 2008 at 11:57 AM

    I (still) have the flu…

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    Alas, Monday’s announcement of my recovery was premature. I’ve been ordered back to bed – with a specific warning to stay away from my computer. And, I shall do my best to comply.

    Therefore, until Monday…at the earliest.

    NOTE: As much as I appreciated them the first time around, this occasion does not warrant any more get-well e-mails. But thanks again.

    Related Articles:
    I have the flu

  • Wednesday, February 6, 2008 at 12:51 PM

    Super Tuesday results: Obama’s 13 small states vs. Hillary’s 8 big ones = a virtual tie!

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    The numbers speak for themselves. And after all the voting and political spinning, Super Tuesday has ended in a virtual tie. But there’s no denying that this bodes well for Obama.

    Because if Hillary could not put Obama away with wins in the Hispanic-rich states of California, New York and New Jersey, then she has to be worried about her chances going forward. Especially since the primary in the next big Hispanic-rich state of Texas will not be held until March 4.

    By contrast, even though he did not put away Mitt Romney and Mike Huckabee, John McCain seems relatively assured of winning the Republican nomination.

    Therefore, the fight continues for the Democrats – with Hillary and Obama now scheduled to meet in states where Obama is favored to win, namely: this Saturday in Louisiana, Nebraska and Washington, and next Tuesday in Virginia, Maryland and Washington, DC.

    So stay tuned….

    NOTE: Am I the only one who is wondering what good are the Kennedys to Obama if they couldn’t even help him carry their home state of Massachusetts?!

    Related Articles:

    Kennedys endorse Obama

    * OBAMA ’08: To learn more about this extraordinary presidential candidate, and to contribute to his audacious campaign, please click here.

  • Tuesday, February 5, 2008 at 9:09 AM

    Obama-Day (Super) Tuesday: Go Vote!

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    Let’s keep our eyes on the prize, which, of course, is electing Barack Obama as the first black president of the United States in November. But, to see the historic scope of this prize, we must get to the mountaintop, which is electing him as the Democratic nominee.

    Therefore, let us defy the pundits (and surprise Obama) by helping him win a decisive victory in today’s Super-Tuesday primaries. Because I’m convinced that – just as the New York Giants shocked the presumptive Super Bowl champion, New England Patriots – we can shock the presumptive Democratic nominee, Hillary Clinton.

    And we can do this especially if we turn out in overwhelming numbers in key states like California, New York, Missouri, and New Jersey to vote for Obama.

    Besides, what better way to mark black history month than by sealing Obama’s nomination today!

    Therefore, if you live in any of the states highlighted above, go vote! And, yes, it would help if you are a US citizen and actually registered to vote.

    CHANGE! ¡Sí Se Puede! Yes, we can!

    Related Articles:
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  • Monday, February 4, 2008 at 12:50 PM

    Giants stomp Patriots’ claim to football immortality

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    All dashed hopes, broken dreams, and lost money aside, the NY Giants’ 17-14 Super Bowl XLII win over the New England Patriots last night redeemed all professional sports.

    Because, despite the dark cloud of cheating that hovers over almost every sporting event these days, this one showed why nothing can diminish the thrill of victory, or the agony of defeat, that sports provide.

    But don’t let anyone tell you that this was an exciting game to watch. Because, true to form, the first three quarters were a yawn; and the 3-7 score at that point betrays any suggestion to the contrary. And even though a few lead changes and a couple hail-mary plays in the final quarter injected some excitement, they were hardly enough to overcome the tedium that was by then in full repose.

    Of course, some sports analyst insist that the defensive battle, which limited the scoring, is precisely what made this game so exciting. But this is (post hoc) defensive rubbish. Because if anyone were looking forward to a low-scoring game, the odds makers would not have made the Giants 12-point underdogs.

    (Apropos the odds, even I was sensible enough to pick the Giants to beat that 12-point spread. But if you’re one of the suckers who picked the patriots not only to win but also to beat the spread, you’re just another fool who deserves to be parted with his money….)

    At any rate, here are my pre-game thoughts – as published two weeks ago after both teams won their respective league championship and a ticket to the Super Bowl:

    I wanted the Giants to win to give their nerdy young quarterback, Eli Manning, a chance to emulate his big brother Peyton – the quarterback of Indianapolis Colts who not only led his team to a conference championship last year, but also to victory in the Super Bowl.

    Therefore, here’s to Eli and the Giants for keeping this sibling rivalry going….

    Like everyone else – except Chargers fans – I was rooting for the Patriots to continue their historic and improbable perfect season. Therefore, it was tremendously gratifying that by half time, quarterback Tom Brady had his team well on its way to a rendezvous with destiny: to win the Super Bowl and become the first team in NFL history to go 19-0!

    [But] since I want to see history made more than I want to see Eli emulate his brother, I’m picking the Patriots to win the Super Bowl!

    Nevertheless, I suppose I can derive some consolation from the fact that Eli not only emulated his big brother as Super Bowl MVP; but he did it with seeming insurmountable odds and almost-universal interest in the “perfect season” stacked against him.

    Not to mention that his performance upstaged Brady’s premature coronation – by sports writers and advertisers alike – as “the greatest player in the history of the NFL.”

    (Incidentally, I would’ve given MVP honors to the Giants’ pass rushers who were on Brady like fleas on a dog everytime he touched the football. But I understand the irresitable appeal of playing out the sibling rivalry angle. )

    Meanwhile, all we need is for Brady’s teammates to blame their loss on his supermodel girlfriend Giselle Bunchen – who at least stimulated some interest in watching this game, perchance to glance her face as she mugged for the JumboTron from her skybox over the stadium….

    But, given the precedent set by Cowboy Tony Romo’s girlfriend, Jessica Simpson, this was probably Giselle’s last game not only as the team’s guest, but also as Brady’s girlfriend….

    So Congratulations to the New York Giants – Super Bowl XLII Champions!

    NOTE: My disappointment in the game paled in comparison to my disappointment in the much-hyped commercials: $2.7 million for a 30-second spot?! Give me a break! Although, it was probably money well spent for Barack Obama to get his message out.

    As for the traditional commercials, however, the Super Bowl ring for the best one goes to Coke for shrewdly exploiting nostalgia and childhood emotions with its Charlie Brown (finally getting his football) ad.

    The worst? Salesgenie.com’s stupid pandering to Chinese stereotypes. (Or was that voice-over fool supposed to be an Indian…?)

    ENDNOTE: It would be impossible for me to thank all of you, individually, who sent get-well e-mails. Therefore, please accept this as my note of thanks and sincere gratitude.

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