MILS asks, in the endorsement thread, why I hate Tim Russert. I thought it was a joke, but then I remembered that this is our friend Mike in Lake Stevens, who is holding our “fair and balanced blog” certificate and won’t give it to us until I get around to my promised and as yet undelivered mockery of Chris Matthews. I’ll get to it soon, I promise, but in the meantime, I’ll answer your question:
Russert’s various attempts at “gotcha” questions are profoundly obnoxious. A good moderator asks occasional point-blank questions that cut through the bullshit, and Russert acts like that’s what he’s doing, but he’s not. Take his Iran question, for example. He could have asked about their assessment of the Iranian problem and their planned strategy and tactics, but instead we got (and I’m paraphrasing here) “Rudy Gulliani has made the following drunken irresponsible boast; will you join him, or dare to attempt a silly answer that, given the current framing of the issue and the 30 seconds you’ve got, is pretty much guaranteed to look like weak and equivocating waffling?” Same thing on the drivers’ license for illegal immigrants question–rather than ask them about their approach to immigration policy, he hammered away at Clinton on whether and how much she supported Spitzer’s widely misunderstood attempt at a coping strategy for dealing with the current failed policies of immigration being undertaken at the state level (why taking a stand on this issue is relevant for candidates for federal office remains unclear), and tried to make her efforts to talk about immigration policy seriously look like a dodge on her part.
There has been a common standard form for Russert’s questions, and it goes something like this:
Russert: I demand you give an unequivocal answer to this bizarre micro-question on a peripheral topic of a larger important issue, designed to tie you down to what will likely be an unpopular stance.
Candidate: (attempts to talk about the actual issue)
Russert, interrupting: Why won’t you answer my question?? What are you hiding?
Politicians peddle bullshit all the time. The fact that the debate moderators routinely outdo do them on this score is apalling.
I’m not ready to endorse any candidate for the Democratic nomination. I was leaning heavily towards Obama (I went to an Obama rally in Lexington last month, and it was fantastic), but his moves on Social Security and his campaign more generally hasn’t impressed me. I’m now re-thinking John Edwards; he has until now struck me as a candidate who perpetually punches under his weight, and I don’t like the idea of having to nominate another southern white man, but this southern white man also happens to be the most progressive legitimate candidate in the race, so it’s hard for me to discount him.
And then there’s Hilary. This is the thing about Hilary; I firmly believe that she would win a knife fight staged between the Democratic contenders, and that’s no small consideration. I also believe that she hates Republicans more than any of the Democratic candidates. I think the Republicans know this, which is why they fear her more than any other Democrat. At the same time, she’s clearly the most conservative major Democratic candidate. I should say that I don’t take all that seriously arguments that she can’t win in the general election; in general I think that the appeal of candidates in the general isn’t as predictable as we’d like to think, and specifically I think that Hilary’s strengths will be just as important (and perhaps more important) in November 2008 as her liabilities.
But for now I’m undecided.
Among the many, many disturbing moments in Sicko (and there were many), of the most enraging for me was among the least graphic: the moment when Moore indicates, with thought bubble-like images, how much money each of several elected officials has taken from the healthcare industry. The very same industry that profits from keeping people as far away from adequate health care as possible. The bottom line is that a lot of people have taken a lot of money, not the least of which is Hilary Clinton.
Which is why I was not at all surprised (though again, disappointed), to see in yesterday’s Times that Hilary is certainly not the only one in the Democratic presidential field to be taking money from the insurers and pharmaceutical companies with one hand while holding sick babies and promising universal single payer healthcare with the other, though she has amassed the most.
According to the Times article (source of this graphic):
Mrs. Clinton received $2.7 million through the end of September, far more than Mitt Romney, the Republican who raised the most from the health care industry, with $1.6 million. The industry’s drift in contributions toward Democratic candidates mirrors wider trends among donors, but the donations from this sector are particularly notable because of the party’s focus on overhauling the health care system.
Among all the candidates in both political parties, Senator Barack Obama of Illinois is the No. 2 recipient of donations from the health care industry, having raised about $2.2 million, according to campaign finance records.
I want to choose a democratic candidate and wholeheartedly throw my support behind her or him. But with figures like this, whose campaign promises of a healthier America can I take to the bank?
Obama will vote to filibuster any immunization of corporations who abetted illegal government behavior by violating the privacy of their customers. Excellent news, and credit Dodd for forcing his hand as well. Obviously, if Clinton won’t follow suit no progressive should give even a second thought to supporting her in the primary.
I have to say that I’m getting pretty close to endorsing Dodd. The Arbitrary Executive Power and Surrender of Congressional Prerogatives Act is bad enough, but the blanket immunization of corporations who assisted in illegal activity is beyond the pale. It’s not just awful on the merits; for candidates unwilling to argue against it because Republicans will say “Dimmicrats want Islamofascistcommienazis to kill your children! Booga-booga!” although there’s little evidence that it even works anymore indicates that they plan to run on national security from a permanent defensive crouch. Enough. Clinton and Obama need to try to shape the discourse on the issue or we need to look for another standard-bearer.