Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Clinton, Obama, Jesse Jackson and the Jewish vote in Florida

There's a reason why Ted Kennedy got angry about Clinton's brandishing of a Jesse Jackson comparison to Obama: it was an attempt to tarnish Obama in the Jewish community. That may sound harsh but all last week, former Clinton adviser and somewhat psycho anti-Hillary pit bull Dick Morris was praising Clinton's genius in his use of the Jackson thing and that by paining Obama black in SC, the Clintons was guaranteeing victory everywhere else on Super Tuesday. The Clintons were doing this for "fun." (Hillary's description of negative campaigning). There is a dark side to the Jesse Jackson analogy and that was the extent to which Jesse Jackson became anathema to the Jewish community because of perceived anti-Semitism, aggravated by his infamous description of New York as "Hymie Town."

Would you really doubt that B. Clinton, the great triangulator, was unaware of this. And, by the way, do you doubt that Teddy Kennedy, whose been around for a few years in politics, isn’t aware of the unfortunate connotation attached to Jackson's name by some older Jews - particularly I can assume - the ones retired in Florida by the hundreds of thousands, maybe millions.

Having spent the last 38 years of life in the Bronx and seeing the "Scoop" Jackson" 1976 Democratic primary vote in Coop City, I can assure that the Jesse Jackson as enemy mentality was prevalent at the time. Coop City is largely Black and Latino now. The Jews who lived there have either died or moved – to Florida.

Given the enormous micro-polling that goes on in the Clinton campaign orchestrated by Mark Penn, I'll betcha a poll of Florida Democrats revealed (would have revealed) that among the Jewish emigres, Jesse Jackson had strong negatives. Ergo, link Obama to Jackson repeatedly and often. If you have ever taken, or answered a poll, you know how its done. A list of names is read and for each name you are asked: “If XX is endorsed by YY, would it make you more or less likely to vote for him?” Or simply: “Do you have a favorable or unfavorable opinion of YY.” In this case “YY” would be Jesse Jackson.

I had a dental appointment this morning. My Dentist is second or third generation Jewish and market-tested this theory on him and he agreed immediately that by linking Obama to Jackson, Clinton was playing to the Jewish vote, including his.

The fact that Bill Clinton and Hillary can express amazement that anyone could believe that it was deliberate ploy is testament to their acting ability and their low estimation of the intelligence of the American voters. They should win an Oscar, not the Presidency. I only hope that Jewish voters don't fall for it.

Of course, Obama has another Jewish issue going for him: The more he talks about his mother and father and his love and respect for them and his roots, although different from typical Jewish roots, he plays to the strong sense of family that underlies Jewish culture. That’s targeting with a heart. "He's such a nice boy."

Sunday, January 27, 2008

It's all about him

There was a time when Americans valued "class" with a small "c." I'm not talking about economic "class" or social "class" but a genuine understanding that it's not all about me and the ability to congratulate a successful opponent with grace and dignity, understanding that there is a tomorrow and that in politics (and sports) today's adversary may be tomorrow’s ally or teammate. Among the classless moments of my memory are Nixon's "You won't have Nixon to kick around any more" and Roger Maris's comment after the Yankees lost to Pittsburg in the 1960 World Series: "Everyone knows we were best team. It's too bad we didn't win."

Right up there is Bill Clinton's Fred Thomasesque speech in Missouri Saturday night. It was all about Bill and not much about Hillary. The anchors at CNN and MSNBC didn't make that up. It was there on the screen.

There's empathy and there is pseudo-empathy. There is the empathy of one who truly feels your pain and the pseudo-empathy of a narcissist who adopts empathy as a mask for his or her self involvement. In Missouri, after Hillary's lost, Bill Clinton by talking about himself and his administration definitively defined himself. It was all about him. His empathy has all the sincerity of Mitt Romney's smile.

Maybe it's time that the Clintonistas started reviewing the great accomplishments of the Clinton administration. Was he better on the environment than Bush - by a million millions. Was he better on the economy: Clinton rode the Wall Street wave and left office just before the deluge. We also lost the Congress in 1992 and didn’t win it back until 14 years later in 2006.

NAFTA was his, remember? Not to denigrate his entire administration. To me, the most pressing issue for electing almost any Democrat will be, and remains, the reactionary packing of the Supreme Court. We lose this one and the Court may be gone for a generation.

In 2000 I played a minor role in helping Hillary get her the Sierra Club endorsement. I have no regrets. I wish her a long, long productive career in the United States Senate. I hope she will have one.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Will Hillary's barrage elect McCain?

The Democratic debate in South Carolina Tuesday night (1/21/2008) turned very ugly. One of the “issues” was Obama’s use of voting “present” in the Illinois State Senate when he was dissatisfied with certain aspects of otherwise good legislation.

However, Hillary Clinton has her own explaining to do on her claimed opposition to the 2005 bankruptcy amendments. She didn’t vote present. She was recorded as “not voting.” The only one of 100 Senators not to record a “yea” or nay.” The 2005 Bankruptcy amendments were a consumer disaster. In the House, even Barney Frank voted against them. I think that I heard Hillary say she opposed the Amendments. Am I wrong? Did she duck the vote?

Is that true? She alone among all the Senators, is the one who did not vote on the bankruptcy law that catered to the credit card companies in an attempt to make credit card debt non-dischargeable. Does anyone have an explanation for this? Is her convenient absence one reason why she has such superior fund raising ability? From long experience: a lobbyist WILL tell a legislator, if you can’t be with me, go to the bathroom when the vote comes-up. It happens.

If Obama wants a real issue, and the infighting persists, I suggest he check with the folks in Fayetteville Arkansas where the Clinton regime built a toxic waste incinerator. One of the edges Bill Clinton had in 1992 was his early fundraising from Wall Street. He delivered, they paid. The key to the incinerator binge was the money the Wall Street bond lawyers and underwriters made in the sale of bonds. As I wrote for City Sierran in 1992: “If it’s bondable, it’s buildable. Whether it’s workable is irrelevant.” See http://www.johnklotz.com/burn.htm

Incidentally, the Sierra Club and its allies defeated the mass burn incinerators, which were an initiative by Governor Mario Cuomo and Mayor David Dinkins, both of whom were defeated for reelection in heavily Democratic New York. I am not a Giuliani fan, but it was Republican Governor Pataki and Republican Mayor Giuliani that put a nail in the coffin of both the mass-burn plan and a hospital waste in incinerator in the South Bronx. Was that important. See http://www.johnklotz.com/andy.htm New York City's air quality is now among the best of major cities.

If the Clintons don't get a grip, the only winner in the Democratic debate will be McCain. Hillary’s shrill performance may cut Obama down to size, but it may set up ”nice guy” John McCain for a win, as I expect the polls will be showing. Although McCain has enormous liabilities issue wise, I don’t think they will be able to tag team him the way they are tag teaming Obama. We may notice that the “straight talker” speaks with a forked tongue but it will be a tough sell.

I am for Edwards but as that possibility fades, the only Democratic ticket that will make sense is Hillary-Obama. Hillary’s courting of the Latino power structure may make the need for a dramatic gesture to the most consistent overwhelming Democratic vote - the African-American vote. It’s not that they will they vote for McCain, it’s will they vote in sufficient numbers for a candidate who is destroying their best spokesperson since MLK and Jessie Jackson’s heyday.

Nice guy John McCain may dampen their ardor to vote for Hillary. Somewhere out there, I can also hear Michael Bloomberg licking his chops.

Friday, January 11, 2008

Is Clorox bleaching the green Sierra Club white?

For over a decade, I was fairly active in the Sierra Club, but for multiple reasons over the past two years, I have had to let Sierra Club stuff slide. But now, something has happened that requires some comment. Carl Pope, the Executive Director of the Sierra Club has announced an exciting new “partnership” with Clorox to develop green products. The question to many is Clorox bleaching the green Sierra Club white.

What we are watching is perhaps the final chapter of the conversion of the Sierra Club ‑ on a national level ‑ from an activists driven organization to a corporate driven organization where the interest of the Sierra Club as a corporation invariably trumps the interest of the Sierra Club as an activists’ organization. I struggled against that mentality for about three years and then, as pressures from my practice, and my son Mike's illness, moved front and center had to cede the struggle to others. I would bring to your attention several hall marks of this struggle which have ramifications not only of Sierra Club members but for the nation at large.

(1) the decision to pull all criticism of Bush from the Club's web site taken in haste without due deliberation in aftermath of 9/11. According to the President of the Club, the was a no-brainer because of concerns about corporate contributors.

(2) the refusal of the BOD of directors in February 2002 to seriously implement the report of the Global Environmental and Security Task Force which I happened to chair. We recommended that the Club “message to security” and demonstrate that our environmental goals are intrinsically related to national security. Robert Kennedy, Jr. had earlier made the same point a few weeks after 9/11.

When we reported to the Club Board of Directors (“BOD”) the Executive Director ostentatiously read the newspaper and then said that "We have passed this by focus groups and they don’t think that this is something the Club should get involved with.” I subsequently coined a phrase "focus group morality" to express my disdain for those who would substitute the opinions of focus groups for the dictates of conscience. Incidentally, a number of people have pointed out that it was reliance on focus groups to dictate strategy that was key element of Kerry’s 2004 loss.

(3) I believe it was the same year that saw the creation of the Sierra Club Mutual Fund which was supposed to open the door to unlimited wealth for the Club. I thought at the time that proposal would create a rather run-of-the-mill fund which would not really be truly extraordinary and arguably not all that green.

(4) Then there was the struggle in the fall of 2002 to get the Club to oppose the Iraq war and nip it at the bud. The Club had an existing anti-war policy on environmental grounds but the insiders led by Pope struggled ruthlessly and disingenuously to squelch opposition to the war in the Sierra Club.

The Club’s Council of Conservation Leaders, (CCL) passed a resolution in September of 2002, that the Club opposed the looming invasion of Iraq. The BOD sidetracked the resolution to the Conservation Governance Committee (CGC) and then in a private E-Mail (somehow I acquired a copy), the President of the Club lobbied the CGC to defeat the resolution. In October, with the Sierra Club's voice having been silenced, many Democrats voted for the war resolution and that vote has come back to haunt many of them particularly Clinton, Kerry and Edwards.

The great “what if” of American politics is “what if” we had vigorously opposed the war resolution? Could we have budged Kerry or Edwards. I don't think Hillary was budgeable. How different our political history would have been had either Kerry or Edwards voted "no" and at least in Edward's case we now know it was a very close call (thanks to the venomous memoir of perpetual loser and focus group freak Bob Shrum).

The low-point of the affair was when the National Conservation Director threatened to discipline the San Francisco Chapter for proposing to thank Nancy Pelosi for her vote against the 2002 resolution.

It was only after an E-Mail proposal by Pope to expel the members of the Glen Canyon Group in Utah for publicly opposing Club policy was published by the LA Times that the Club - too late - changed its position and publicly opposed the war.

And then there was the 2003 BOD election where independent voices were purged from the BOD under guise of protecting us from the anti-immigration faction. I am told that the husband of one candidate invested $125,000 dollars in that effort. The main problem was that among those purged in the immigration struggle were independent voices that opposed the efforts of the anti immigration faction.

Perhaps, the final blow was the closing of the CCL E-Mail list that allowed a free flow of ideas among members nationwide.

But Sierra Club members at the local level should not lose heart. They still have enough autonomy to deal with local issues and your voice n what happens in our communities is vitally important. You are doing God's work. Whatever the penzavotte at the national level do: "Keep the faith, baby."

During the Vietnam War, the Sierra Club took the courageous position that the use of Agent Orange was wrong. History has proven it right. Now the Club squashes dissent about war and makes deals with corporations whose environmental record – like Clorox – is atrocious.

When I objected to the purging of Bush from the Club web site in 2001, the Club President defended that act by saying that they had a telephone conference that afternoon and that the purge was a "no-brainer" because of the impact of 9/11 on the corporate donors.

She was right. It was a no brainer. It was also a no guts. The struggle for a habitable environment demands both brains and guts.

Is Clorox bleaching the green Sierra Club white? Perhaps I am being unfair, maybe the Club has just changed interest from green trees to green papers.