May 2007


Senator Hillary Clinton voted against the almost $100 billion bill for funding in Iraq and Afghanistan yesterday. Both Senator Obama and she were undecided until it got down to the wire over fears that a “yes” vote alienate anti-war Democrats, who are vital primary voters. A “no” vote would bring charges of abandoning the troops and as NBC’s Chip Reid discussed on this morning’s Today Show, it would also bring charges of a flip-flop for Clinton–Clinton voted for the war and then against funding it, similarly to John Kerry voting for the $87 billion funding measure before he voted against it.

The AP ran a story today about John McCain’s recent criticism of Mitt Romney’s immigration policy.

“Republican John McCain accused presidential rival Mitt Romney of flip-flopping on immigration Monday and said with sarcasm: ‘Maybe his solution will be to get out his small varmint gun and drive those Guatemalans off his lawn.'”

Today’s Washington Post has an interesting article with a few key flip-flops and the justifications a few other politicans are willing to make for the favored candidates:

‘Flip floppery is everywhere in American politics these days.

‘Former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney (R) used to support abortion rights, but now, seeking the votes of conservatives in New Hampshire and South Carolina, he doesn’t. Former senator John Edwards (D-N.C.) voted to store nuclear waste at Yucca Mountain in Nevada, but now that the state is hosting an early caucus, he opposes such a plan. Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) said in 2000 that he saw no benefit from ethanol, but now, hoping for a win in corn-crazy Iowa, he sees the alternative fuel as practical, though he’s still opposed to subsidizing it. […] 

‘Charges of flip-flopping are clearly effective, but is it reasonable to expect politicians who have spent years or even decades in political life to never change their minds on a single issue? And are there certain issues on which flip-flopping is okay and others on which it is political poison? […]

‘Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.), who is supporting Romney in the presidential race, said that he struggled when he arrived in Congress in 1999 with trying to reconcile lessons learned in the private sector with votes he was taking on the floor of the House and, as a result, some of his policy stances evolved over the years.

‘DeMint said Romney had been far more consistent than he had been portrayed by the media. On abortion, DeMint said that Romney’s “values have always been the same” and that when Romney “saw his political position was out of sync with his personal values, he changed it.”

(more…)

The New York Times ran a piece the other day about how all the ’08 presidential candidates have been “white-washing” their personal histories, ignoring or obfuscating whole sections of their biographies. Campaigns have always told selective truths and emphasized some things above others but this batch of candidates has a surprising number of elephants in the room.

“There’s always a tension between what can be said, what should be said and what must be said,” said Edward Widmer, a historian at Brown University who worked as a speechwriter for Mr. Clinton (and also, incidentally endorsed our website). “The first candidate to calibrate this tension may move to the head of the pack.”

(more…)

Does John Edwards’ work for a hedge fund contradict his populist fight for the Middle Class? I’m not sure, but John Edwards’ wealth has made a lot of people skeptical. Whether it’s the $400 haircut or the $1.25 million income this past year, most of which came from a hedge fund, many pundits would argue that John Edwards’ lavish lifestyle makes him a hypocrite when advocating for the poor. One particular comment from the MSNBC Political Blog said:

 Oh, I see what’s going on, Edwards is buying “capitalism offsets” he makes lots of money being a trial lawyer and now an undisclosed amount at a hedge fund, but, since he also helped to raise minimum wage and organize unions, etc. he’s not really a “dirty” capitalist. This way he doesn’t have to change his lavish lifestyle, that was afforded to him largely due to our capitalism based economy, in order to rail against the horrors of capitalism. He just has to buy “capitalism offset credits”. This is genius. I should start a company offering capitialism credits. I could make a fortune! Oh, wait, then I guess I would have to buy capitalism credits from myself. Oh, well its been done before.

I think its unhelpful to criticize the rich for helping the poor, but I understand the impulse. MSNBC’s First Read quoted Edwards’ talking about his financial dealings:

On Friday, in what seemed to be his most extensive comments on camera on the subject, Edwards dodged questions about his involvement with the hedge fund. When asked to reiterate his position, Edwards responded, “Sure. Well, basically, what I have been doing since the last election is a group of things. One of them is, I did consulting work for Fortress, which is a hedge fund in New York.” After a pause, Edwards listed his other activities during this time — running the poverty center at the University of North Carolina; helping to raise the minimum wage in six states and organize workers into unions; starting a college program for poor students in North Carolina; and doing humanitarian work in Africa. Edwards stated these experiences outweighed his work at Fortress. “So it is one of a group of things I have been involved in and I think that certainly if you look at all those things in totality, it is pretty clear where my commitment is.”

I’m not sure if this is Edwards dodging the question or not, it’s clear he was nervous or at least uncomfortable with his work at Fortress. This could be fear borne out of being caught in a hypocrisy, or a legitimate discomfort with his own privileged position within the anti-poverty fight. His conversation with MSNBC sought to answer the allegations a bit:

Asked if his work at the hedge fund conflicts with the idea Edwards is the candidate for the middle class, he reiterated the benefits from his consulting work. “I do think it’s important for the president of the United States to have a good understanding of our financial markets, how they operate, where the incentives are, where the incentives aren’t.”

In a surprising move today, all of the major candidates from both parties, except for one lone contender, have broken the 35-year-old tradition of Presidential candidates disclosing their income tax records.

Edwards even released his records four years ago when running for President, but no longer. He now refuses to give details about his income taxes or about the money he made consulting for controversial hedgefund Fortress. Giuliani refuses to speak about the millions he’s made with his consulting firm. He won’t even disclose the firm’s clients.

And who’s the lone candidate who’s kept up the tradition and released his tax returns? It’s Barack Obama. He went on record about it, saying,

“I think it’s critical that people know who their candidates are – what their sources of income are, if we have any potential conflicts.”

Bravo to Barack. How can the rest of the candidates speak about Government ethics and transparency when they themselves refuse to be personally transparent? And what has made them break this established tradition? While there’s no evidence to suggest unethical behavior, the appearance of impropriety is certainly strong.

flip-flop.jpg ???

The Politico has a provocative must-read exposé of Giuliani’s history as a progressive — information that has the potential to seriously undermine Giuliani‘s candidacy as it becomes more well-known and if it’s accurate.  He might be able to get away with being pro-choice, but not with public perception that many of his conservative statements on the campaign trail could be what he calls a “political thing.”  Some of the more shocking statements in this story are not sourced and surely the author doesn’t meet Reality Check neutrality standards.  Still, it’s a valuable part of the debate and surely a sign of talking points we’ll see in the future as the other candidates seek to tear Giuliani down.

‘In college, Rudy attacked senator Barry Goldwater of Arizona, the 1964 GOP presidential nominee, as an “incompetent, confused and sometimes idiotic man,” and he urged Republicans to “find men who will adequately address themselves to the problems of discrimination, of poverty, of education, of public housing and the many more problems that Sen. Goldwater and company throw aside in the name of small laissez-faire government.”

‘Former New York governor Mario Cuomo, a liberal icon, put it this way: “(Giuliani’s) basically very pragmatic. And he’s progressive. He is not a Neanderthal, a primitive conservative. But look, he’s a clever human being. He can shave and draw fine distinctions when he needs to.” […]

‘Rudy first switched from Democrat to Independent, and then to Republican, not because he embraced the tenets of conservatism but in order to move up the U.S. Justice Department ladder.

‘”He only became a Republican after he began to get all these (Justice Department) jobs,” Rudy’s mother, Helen Giuliani, told Barrett. “He’s definitely not a conservative Republican. He thinks he is, but he isn’t. He still feels very sorry for the poor.”

(more…)

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