On the whole Tammy Duckworth thing

You know I was listening to Christine Cegelis on Laura Flanders' show last night and she said that her and her people, the organization of volunteers that her campaign excited and built up were not going to go work for Duckworth, but instead they are going to go and help local progressive candidates not backed by the establishment. I think they are doing the right thing. Duckworth has the establishment support they obviously just expect people to vote for her anyway.

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Hillary Rodham Clinton: Behind The Music Part II

It has been alleged that Hillary Clinton was "the leader of the only attempt in 30 years to get universal health coverage." First let me say that I commend Bill and Hillary Clinton for making health care an issue in the 1992 campaign and the bona fide attempt of the Clinton administration to achieve universal coverage. But let us not forget that a substantial portion of the career of Senator Ted Kennedy was also devoted to this goal and that 2000 presidential candidate Bill Bradley, also came up with a plan (however flawed) that would have provided near full coverage. Let us also not forget that during the same period in which the Clinton plan was announced, Senator Paul Wellstone introduced a bill to create a publicly accountable single-payer system that was endorsed by the New England Journal of Medicine. My point here is that there is no need to genuflect to Hillary Clinton as "the only" Democratic leader who has ever tried to do anything about health care.

The problem with Bill and Hillary's approach to health care reform is that it was an attempt to compromise with a market based system that had no incentive to compromise with them. The American "health care industry" makes its huge profits by denying care to as many people as possible. It then plows a portion of these profits into the campaign coffers of elected officials. Hence the reluctance of politicans to take on the industry in a fundamental way. Here's what Dr. David Himmelstein, who teaches at Harvard Medical School and is a cofounder of Physicians for a National Health Program (http://www.pnhp.org/), said about a meeting he had with Hillary back in the early 90s: "When I presented the case for national health insurance to her, she said, 'Can you name any force capable of taking on the $300 billion dollar a year HMO and insurance industry?'When I said how about the president of the United States leading a crusade of the American people,? She asked me for something real."

As Nancy Welch who interviewed Dr. Himmelstein for The Socialist Worker online (http://www.socialistworker.org/2004-2/51 7/517_11_DavidHimmelstein.shtml)has pointed out two results of the Clinton administration's attempt to compromise with the private insurance industry were: 1)the abandonment of a four decade long committment to National Health Insurance by the Democrats; and 2)a signal to investors that managed care was safe place to be which in turn stimulated today's corporate dominance of the health care system.

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Preliminary Thoughts On ABC's 2008 'Invisible Primary Ratings'

When I first saw these rankings of the 2008 contenders, I thought maybe ABC should just have titled the report "Netroots: You Are Irrelevant." But perhaps that's unfair. After all, they do include as part of their rankings a "Netroots" score, even if it isn't weighted very heavily. And in all honesty, this isn't a completely terrible ranking, even if it is quite early for rankings. They're broken down by a number of criteria -- the aforementioned "Netroots,""Polling / Name ID,""Money Potential,""New Hampshire," and so on. They point to the fact that their ranking of the 2004 contenders at this same point in 2002 found the number one and two spots going to John Kerry and John Edwards, respectively. Not bad, but I'm still not convinced. After all, in mid-2002, Kerry and Edwards had been knocked down by Gore and Gephardt, and Gray Davis came in at number nine. A lot can happen in two years.

On the GOP side, the top five, in order, are John McCain, George Allen, Mitt Romney, Rudy Giuliani, and Mike Huckabee. For the Democrats, it's Hillary Clinton, John Edwards, Mark Warner, John Kerry, and Tom Vilsack. Though they do offer some explanation of their methodology, it seems there's a lot of boilerplate conventional wisdom in here. Is Vilsack really in the top five for the Democrats? Does he really outrank Bill Richardson and Wes Clark? Personally, I doubt it. And among the Republicans, I can't buy Rudy Giuliani at number four. Now, maybe that works. But in two years, with his social life the talk of the GOP primary circuit, not so much.

So those are my issues with the overall rankings. What do I think of their more specific charts? Honestly, I don't feel well-equipped enough to dissect every list here. "Polling / Name ID?" That's a matter of hard numbers, hard to argue, unless you're going to talk about their relevance this early in the game. "Fire in the Belly?" Well... okay. Here's how they describe the category:

Fire in the Belly: How badly does the candidate want it? How hard is he/she willing to work? Will he/she do "what it takes" to win, including shedding or at least temporarily freeing himself/herself from other responsibilities and distractions? Are they ready to ask strangers for $4,200 contributions and sleep in bad hotels away from the family night after night?

On our side, the winner in this category is Mark Warner, with Hillary Clinton, John Edwards, and Bill Richardson tying for second place. What, no John Kerry? This strikes me as too nebulous a characteristic to rank accurately, but in terms of gut instinct, I'd say again, it's not terrible. I do disagree with putting Russ Feingold in the middle of a four-way tie with Tom Vilsack, Evan Bayh, and Wes Clark for seventh place, however. If "fire in the belly" is defined by willingness to twist one's self like a pretzel to placate every constituency, Feingold is certainly not the winner. But if it's defined by willingness to put one's self out in public as a strong advocate for his or her beliefs, then Feingold is massively underestimated here. Point being, once again, I think this is too vague to be considered serious criteria.

And finally -- for the purposes of this post, anyway -- the "Netroots" ranking. ABC figures that Russ Feingold is in solid first place in the Democratic blogosphere, with Wes Clark in second. Obviously, they've been paying attention to the straw polls. However, they put Kerry in third here, and I'm going to have to disagree. Kerry's certainly been courting the netroots vigorously, but does that really earn him the number three spot? I still sense a lot of skepticism of Kerry after 2004, here and at other sites. And Kerry also tied Mark Warner in third, which I don't agree with. By all means, Warner has earned the spot by both reaching out to the netroots and taking advantage of people like Jerome and Nate. But other than his e-mail list and posting diaries, Kerry hasn't come close to matching that effort.

At the end of the day, rankings like this serve to define the conventional wisdom as much as codify it. Of course, the media's already defined Hillary Clinton and John McCain as the front-runners, so ABC isn't really doing them any favors here. However, I can't help but feeling there's a not-so-subtle message in here directed at candidates like Russ Feingold and Chuck Hagel, that they really shouldn't bother, and neither should their supporters. But I don't really like taking my marching orders from the vaunted "Gang of 500," and I'm fairly certain I'm not alone in that.

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A Different Interpretation of Illinois 06

I too have meditated a lot on the results and the various events coloring the race in Illinois 06.  

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Lancing the Boil

The conservative movement is irredeemable. What William F. Buckley and Barry Goldwater launched decades ago was perverted into a corporate theocracy. In recent days, Kevin Phillips new book American Theocracy, has received much attention for his scholarly analysis of the movement's legacy. It's worth reading because Phillips also wrote The Emerging Republican Majority while working on the Nixon campaign. It was published a year later and proved prescient. This time Phillips documents the legacy of a movement he helped launch.

The rumblings of conservative intellectuals such as Phillips and Bruce Bartlett illustrate that the Republican crusade is sucking wind. Even President Reagan's former speechwriter Peggy Noonan openly asks whether Bush is a liberal.

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