© 2008 – 2024 John T. Burke, Jr.

Beam Me Up, Scotty!

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May 30, 2008

This past week, the release of Scott McClellan’s book, What Happened, pushed the failed campaign of Hillary Clinton right out of the news.  Among the subjects raised in McClellan’s book, was his point that the so-called “liberal media” enabled an uncritical mindset during the run-up to the Iraq war, facilitating Congressional approval of Bush’s war effort.  The point made by McClellan has resulted in a surprising amount of self-analysis by the mainstream media and some good criticism by those, referred to by Karl Rove as “Leftist Bloggers”.  On the website Media Matters for America, Eric Boehlert wrote an article concerning a September 27, 2002 speech given by Sen. Edward Kennedy.  Kennedy’s speech targeted six aspects of the war, which have now become widely-expressed criticisms, voiced by politicians and commentators who opposed of our invasion of Iraq.   Boehlert analyzed the scant coverage given to this speech by broadcast news, cable news and the press.  One humorous example concerned how Chris Matthews sandwiched Kennedy’s name between the names of Barbara Streisand and Tom Cruise:

Tonight on Hardball, Barbra Streisand, Senator Ted Kennedy, and Tom Cruise speak out as debate picks up in Washington and in Hollywood over whether this country should attack Iraq.

Boehlert was surprised to find the show’s guests discussing the opinions of the celebrities as seriously as they discussed Senator Kennedy’s argument against the invasion.

Meanwhile, Jason Linkins of The Huffington Post, followed up on a remark made by CNN’s congressional correspondent, Jessica Yellin, appearing on Anderson Cooper 360 as a part of a panel discussing McClellan’s book.  Ms. Yellin admitted that during the run-up to the war, “the press corps was under enormous pressure from corporate executives, frankly, to make sure that this was a war that was presented in a way that was consistent with the patriotic fever in the nation and the president’s high approval ratings”.

Throughout the primary season, we have seen Hillary Clinton take plenty of heat for her vote authorizing the use of military force in Iraq.  John Edwards took less heat for his vote, because he admitted it was a mistake.  Now, thanks to Scott McClellan, the media are being forced to account for their fair share of the blame in selling this war to the American public.  Don’t be surprised if someone follows up with a movie discussing media complicity in what McClellan has described as a “propaganda campaign”.

We are all familiar with Judith Miller’s efforts at The New York Times to help promote the invasion of Iraq.  McClellan’s observation that the “liberal media” are partially to blame for promoting this war, may result in the identification of more “liberal media” cheerleaders for the Iraq invasion, as well as an understanding of their numerous motives.

The Futile Quest

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May 26, 2008

Yesterday, during my on-line explorations, I came across the latest newsletter from an organization called The Misogynists of Eliteville.  It contained some shocking news.  Here’s what it said:

Dear Brethren:
As anticipated by many of us, The Bitter One has issued the Sirhan Invocation.
Although she has attempted this on prior occasions, her message had not previously received the degree of widespread dissemination we saw last week.  Her directive has now reached all of those waiting for such a cue.  Across the nation right now, thousands of her minions are hunched over their cauldrons, stirring the simmering contents with long, wooden spoons and chanting these unholy words:
June is a month of transformation.
June is a time for assassinations.
Eye of anteater
And tail of mouse
Return Our Leader
To Her White House!
It is already too late to stop these witches from casting this spell.  We need to immediately implement countermeasures to undo this curse.  This must be accomplished by individuals acting independently.  Any joint effort toward coordination of sympathetic occult enthusiasts will likely be detected by the forces we oppose.

It appears as though Hillary Clinton’s futile quest for the Presidency may have escalated into some sort of supernatural war.  Should the Misogynists of Eliteville eventually overcome this curse, would Obama, as President, seek to subject the perpetrators to “Kenyan justice”?  Last week in Kenya, some people, convicted for practicing witchcraft, were burned to death.  After all, Obama traces his roots back to Kenya, his father’s homeland.  In any event, such punishment for that kind of activity would not be unprecedented here in the United States.  It’s just been a while.  However, Mr. Obama strikes me as the “amnesty” type.  Once he is sworn in, he will probably let bygones be bygones.

At this point in Hillary Clinton’s meltdown, it’s interesting to look back at the remarks made by producer David Geffen in February of 2007.  As you may recall, Mr. Geffen (along with his DreamWorks partners Steven Spielberg and Jeffrey Katzenberg) threw a fundraising party for Mr. Obama on February 20, 2007 that brought the candidate $1.3 million.   This caused quite a stir, since Geffen had helped raise $18 million for Bill Clinton in the past.  In the following day’s New York Times, Maureen Dowd caused a minor earthquake by revealing to the world what Mr. Geffen told her about the Clintons:  “Everybody in politics lies, but they do it with such ease, it’s troubling.”  People were familiar with Bill Clinton’s oral denials about his assignations with Monica Lewinsky, but many were shocked that such criticism would extend to Hillary’s credibility.

Looking back from our present perspective, it is easier to understand Geffen’s observation.  Throughout her Presidential campaign, Hillary has been caught in several lies:  that LBJ did more for the Civil Rights movement than did Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr.; that she landed in Bosnia while the airstrip was under fire; that the aforementioned remark was a “misstatement” caused by fatigue (even though she had told that false story at least once before).  Finally, after shocking the world with her “Sirhan Invocation” on May 23, she claimed that her reference to that event slipped out only because Senator Ted Kennedy’s recent cancer diagnosis was fresh on her mind.  This was yet another lie.  She initially issued “the Sirhan Invocation” for a March 6 article in Time magazine.  She gave that invocation again on May 7 (twice) in West Virginia and in Washington.  Ted Kennedy was feeling fine back then.  Beyond that, her “set-up line” for “the Sirhan Invocation” was to claim that Bill had not secured the 1992 nomination until the California primary in June.  This was another lie.  Newsweek’s Jonathan Alter described it as a “preposterous statement”.

David Geffen understood the credibility shortcomings of the Clintons, at least as far back as February of 2007, when he shared this observation with Maureen Dowd.  Those of us who took his opinion seriously, owe him (and Ms. Dowd) our thanks.

Jim Webb In The Spotlight

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May 23, 2008

The release of the book, A Time to Fight: Reclaiming a Fair and Just America by Senator James H. Webb of Virginia, could not have been better timed.  As he makes the rounds of the talk shows to promote his latest book, nobody can seem to resist asking Webb how he would respond if he were asked to run as Barack Obama’s Vice-Presidential pick.  He has replied with the customary “I haven’t been asked” and usually dodges the ultimate question.  He fits the bill so well, he cannot possibly be overlooked.  Consider the following:

Obama’s lopsided losses to Hillary Clinton in Pennsylvania, West Virginia and Kentucky were widely regarded as the result of his failure to “connect” with the “white working class” people there.  As it turns out, Jim Webb wrote a book about those Appalachian people, called:  Born Fighting: How the Scots-Irish Shaped America.  As one of those people himself, born into a military family in Saint Joseph, Missouri, not only can he connect with those people to bridge the gap between them and Obama, but he can also provide the “insider” expertise for delivering Obama’s message to them.

Webb’s military record is more impressive than McCain’s POW experience.  Jim Webb served a full tour in Viet Nam.  (A tour was only one year back then.)  As a First Lieutenant in the Marines, Webb earned a Navy Cross, (the second highest decoration for combat heroism in the Navy and Marine Corps).   He also earned two Bronze Stars, the Silver Star, and two Purple Hearts.  The citation awarded with Webb’s Navy Cross, reads like a movie script.  We see that kind of heroism on the big screen, although most of us doubt such a degree of valor ever actually takes place in battle.  Shielding a fellow soldier from a grenade, beats a stint in the Hanoi Hilton when it’s time for kudos (especially in the realm of politics).  With a background that includes having served as Secretary of the Navy during the Reagan Administration, he has the perfect resume, which lists degrees from Annapolis and Georgetown Law School.

The disgruntled supporters of Hillary Clinton will surely remind us of Webb’s 1979 article, entitled “Why Women Can’t Fight”.  Webb’s female military supporters can be expected to return to his rescue in this battle, just as they defended him from this attack in the 2006 Senate race.  The so-called “Hard Right” Republicans will likely launch an attack of their own.  They will point out that Webb has been married three times, despite the fact that all of the 2008 Republican Presidential candidates had multiple marriages (except The Mormon).  We will also be advised that some of the novels written by Webb had “dirty parts” – really dirty parts.  (Expect to see one of these novels on the Top 100 list, once this debate begins.)

Although Webb has served only eighteen months in the Senate, he has at least some familiarity with life there, as opposed to a Governor who could become Vice-President.  One would expect that to become President of the Senate, the aspirant should have some prior experience there.  We have not seen a former Governor rise to VP since Nelson Rockefeller (with Ford) and Spiro Agnew (with Nixon).

Webb’s ex-Republican background is what sets him ahead of Nebraska Senator Chuck Hagel, who still is a Republican.  Although Hagel is considered a “dream pick” for a “unity ticket”, The Democratic “Party Elders” would not likely stomach the idea of a Republican cutting in and jumping into the coveted VP slot.  Even if Hagel were to defect to the Democratic Party (given that he is now ending his twelve-year career in the Senate) there are plenty of other hopefulls, ready to elbow him out of contention.

The longer one considers the usefulness and qualifications of Jim Webb for the VP spot on the Obama ticket, the better Webb looks for the Democrats.

Only 75 Percent Corrupt!

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May 19, 2008

On Friday, May 16, Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. appeared as a guest on David Letterman’s Late Show.  I was particularly impressed by his candor in making the half-jest/full-earnest quip that “Republicans are 95 percent corrupt and Democrats are only 75 percent corrupt”.  Perhaps this theme should be exploited for the November elections.  The Democratic National Committee could run ads boasting that Democrats are 20 percent less corrupt than Republicans (based on the objective opinion of someone with a social conscience).  “Only 75 Percent Corrupt!” has the potential for being a hugely successful campaign slogan that will guarantee the 2008 landslide for Democrats, anticipated by Peggy Noonan and other astute observers.  Over the past few weeks, John McCain found it necessary to remove five of his top advisors, because their work as lobbyists created conflicts of interest.  The use of this slogan would give Barack Obama a three-lobbyist “cushion”, before such a situation could rise to being considered a scandal within his own campaign.

The truth of Mr. Kennedy’s remark must sting even the most thick-skinned Democrats on the Hill.   It should bring to mind things like the Bankruptcy Bill.  Everyone agreed that it was a horrible piece of legislation, written by the credit card industry and yet, it passed.  (Barack Obama voted for it, as did Hillary Clinton.)

Convicted lobbyist, Jack Abramoff, bestowed his favors on Democrats (including Senators Harry Reid, Tom Daschele and Dick Gephardt) as well as Republicans. Back on January 4, 2006, the day after Abramoff’s guilty plea in the U.S. District Court, The Washington Post carried an article by Jeffrey H. Birnbaum and Dan Balz, entitled:  “Case Bringing New Scrutiny To a System and a Profession”.   The article discussed a Washington Post-ABC News poll in November of 2005.  The poll asked Americans whether they thought Democrats or Republicans were better on ethical matters; 16 percent said Democrats, 12 percent said Republicans, and 71 percent said there was not much difference between the parties.  Now, almost three years later, it’s time for the DNC to win over that 71 percent, who found no difference between the two parties.

According to a new study by CQ MoneyLine, (discussed by Alex Knott an Jonathan Allen on May 18) campaign contributions from chief executive officers of American companies ranked in the top 1,000 by Fortune Magazine, were distributed among the three Presidential candidates with the following breakdown:  102 CEO donors gave a total of $282,000 to John McCain; 54 of the Fortune 1000 CEOs (just over half of McCain’s number) gave a total of $164,000 to Hillary Clinton’s campaign and 45 of the Fortune 1000 CEOs contributed a total of $130,000 to Barack Obama’s campaign.  In an era when public outrage over excessive CEO compensation is an important issue, the Democrats should be out there, demonstrating that their candidates are “less bought-off” than John McCain by corporate CEOs.

If the Democrats want to secure control of the Senate in the November election, they have to emphasize the point that their candidates are 20 percent less corrupt than their Republican counterparts.  This “Only 75 Percent Corrupt” campaign theme could be their key to achieving that goal.

Timing Is Everything (when seeking a cabinet post)

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May 15, 2008

On May 14, 2008, John Edwards stepped forward and endorsed Barack Obama as his choice for President.  This announcement came on the very day Hillary Clinton was celebrating a lopsided victory in West Virginia, a state with an abundance of residents who are too dumb to conceal their racism while being interviewed by television reporters.  The timing of Edwards’ announcement was carefully planned to upstage Hillary’s appearances on news programs to tout herself as “The Great White Hope”.  As the #3 candidate for the Democratic nomination, not only did Edwards steal her headlines, but with his own 19 pledged delegates, he basically negated Clinton’s 12-delegate advantage in the West Virginia primary.  (This assumes that at least 63% of Edwards’ pledged delegates will follow his request to support Obama.  At this point, five have agreed to do so.)  His endorsement of Obama will likely impact the decisions of some other superdelegates. He obviously timed his announcement to be an effective strike against the Clinton campaign and to curry favor with Obama for some reason.  What might that reason be?  Some speculate that he has his eyes on another shot at the Vice-Presidency.  Others have pointed out that as a lifelong admirer of Bobby Kennedy, he would like to be appointed Attorney General.  Indeed, he would be a good man to undo the damage to what is now called the Injustice Department, after the politicizing of that branch by Bush and Gonzalez managed to drive the nation’s top prosecutors into private practice.  The fact that Edwards was on a losing ticket in the last election wasn’t his fault.  It was Kerry’s election to lose.  (By the way: does anyone windsurf anymore?  With so many people kite-surfing now, the windsurfing craze seems to have gone the way of the leisure suit.)  Richard Wolffe of Newsweek has expressed the view that, having lost a debate to Dick Cheney (a non-attorney) Edwards will never get the opportunity to run as VP candidate again.  There is also the notion that having been on a defeated ticket, Edwards could bring a “loser stigma” to the current campaign.

On March 21, 2008, after abandoning his own bid for the Presidency, New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson endorsed Barack Obama for President.  This announcement came by way of a press release, indicating that it went out at 3 a.m.  This was a direct rebuff to Hillary’s infamous “3 a.m. phone call” ad and was designed to pack a little sting.  Was this timing element designed to gain a few extra brownie points with Obama?  The fact that Bill Clinton went to New Mexico to watch the Super Bowl with Richardson and bring him on board with Hillary, made it extra painful for the Clinton camp.  After Richardson’s own 3 a.m. message to Hillary, many were speculating that he was vying for the Vice Presidential spot.  As former Energy Secretary and ambassador to the U.N. for Bill Clinton, Governor Richardson has all but guaranteed a cabinet position for himself in an Obama White House.  After what we have seen in West Virginia and other parts of rural America for the past few weeks, don’t expect to see Richardson named as the VP candidate.  The Democratic Party would have to worry about soundbite interview quotes from citizens, discussing how they could not support such a ticket because “them guys ain’t like us folk.  They’re too  … uh … different”.

We can expect another well-timed endorsement for Obama from whoever else is interested in the VP slot.  Will Ohio Governor Ted Strickland become Jim Carville’s next “Judas” and endorse Obama?  If he makes that announcement on the night before the Kentucky primary – watch out.  You could be looking at the ticket.

Some Serious Headaches for McCain

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May 12, 2008

For the past few months, most of the focus on the 2008 election has concerned the Battle Royale between Barack Obama and the Clintons.  Scant attention has been paid to John McCain’s bid for the Presidency, other than the surprise at his decision to align himself with President Bush on so many issues.  What is more surprising is that this strategy has not been paying off where it should: in campaign contributions.

In a shocking article by Jonathan D. Salant for Bloomberg on May 9th, it was disclosed that the McCain campaign is not drawing support from the PACs that supported Bush.  The turnoff expressed by the American Road and Transportation Builders should come as no surprise, since McCain’s “gas tax holiday” would cut a primary source of revenue for federally-funded road projects.  However, Salant’s article went on to discuss some other PACs that have been turned off by McCain.  For example: pharmaceutical industry employees and PACs have given $339,729 to Obama, $262,870 to Clinton and only $74,850 to McCain through March.  Ouch!  Energy companies, whose employees gave $4.9 million to Bush and $757,502 to Kerry in the 2004 election, have given equal contributions of about $1 million to Obama, Clinton and McCain so far this year.  Quoting statistics from the Center for Responsive Politics, Salant’s article pointed out that employees working in the securities industry contributed $9.2 million to Bush’s 2004 campaign, compared to the $4.8 million they gave to Kerry’s campaign. However, in the current campaign, Obama received $7.5 million from the securities industry and Clinton picked up $7 million. Meanwhile, McCain’s contributions from that industry are approximately half of what each Democrat received: $3.8 million through March.  Ouch again!

Meanwhile, Ron Paul is trying to make trouble for McCain.  Many were shocked when Paul’s book, The Revolution: A Manifesto, hit #1 on Amazon’s best seller list.  (It is now #7.)  The May 12 Los Angeles Times ran an article by Andrew Malcolm entitled: “Ron Paul’s forces quietly plot GOP Convention revolt against McCain”.  This article pointed out how Mr. Paul’s supporters have been “… fighting a series of guerrilla battles with party establishment officials at county and state conventions from Washington and Missouri to Maine and Mississippi. Their goal: to take control of local committees, boost their delegate totals and influence platform debates.” With nearly $5 million left in his campaign war chest, Ron Paul is angling to get a prominent speaking spot at the GOP convention.  If he succeeds, I won’t expect it to be more prominent than the slot given to Joe “The Tool” Lieberman.

Ron Paul isn’t the only Libertarian in the news.  Former Republican Representative Bob Barr of Georgia, has announced that he will run for the Presidency as the candidate for the Libertarian Party.  Surprisingly, Barr has drawn favorable responses from the live audience on Bill Maher’s HBO show, Real Time, during his appearances there.  His refreshing criticism of the Bush administration on issues such as the domestic surveillance program and the erosion of due process, should bring him some supporters.  Many remember him from the Clinton impeachment era, as one of Bill’s Congressional antagonists and an advocate of harsh partisanship.  Since leaving Congress, he has cooled off and proven himself to be a likeable guy during his appearances on Maher’s show.  Once he starts making public appearances, we may see him make a serious dent in McCain’s support.

McCain may seem to have benefited from the ongoing fight over the Democratic nomination, while he seemingly “rested on the sidelines”.  Whether he knew it or not, trouble has been brewing among his fellow Conservatives.  If he thought the Democratic Party had the monopoly on internal strife for this campaign, he might be in for a surprise.

The Impossible Ticket

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May 7, 2008

It’s not happening.  Don’t believe it.  It’s a dumb idea.

At this point in the campaign, it is now the preoccupation of the pundits to speculate about likely Vice-Presidential candidates.  Now that Barack Obama has made it absolutely, positively impossible for Hillary to get the nomination (even with the Florida and Michigan votes included) some people are looking at Hillary as a good choice for VP.  It is said that this move will “re-unite the party” and bring the bitter (remember that word?) Clinton supporters back into the Big Tent.

First of all, it’s not necessary for Obama’s campaign or for the Democratic Party to do this.  Hillary’s largest demographic group of support consisted of white women (the less educated, the better).  Are these women not going to vote?  Or will they vote for John McCain and allow him to become President, despite his vow to nominate prospective appointees to the Supreme Court, based primarily on their willingness to overturn Roe v. Wade?  Not likely.  After the convention, Hillary must at least speak favorably about the Obama campaign or face being marginalized for the rest of her political career.  With $11,000,000 of her own money invested in her campaign, it would help for her to stay on good terms with the guy who could bail her out.

Second, it would be stupid for Obama to choose Hillary as his running mate.  He has run a campaign based on the theme of change from the old ways of Washington.  Selecting Hillary as his VP would make him look inauthentic, cynical, a “sell-out” and possibly, all of the above.  Beyond that, the talk radio snipers would be blessed to find their favorite target on the “Democrat” ticket.  Her nomination as the Presidential candidate, was always considered the Republican party’s best chance at winning the 2008 election, because she could galvanize such a broad base of people who oppose her.  That kind of baggage would overload the campaign bus and cause it to break down.

Third issue:  The Redneck Factor.  Hillary was able to work this to her advantage in the primaries, because she was running against an African-American.  Don’t forget that most of the voters in those primaries were Democrats.  Now that we are talking about the general election, things are different.  It has always been considered necessary for a ticket to include a Southerner, either as Presidential candidate or Vice-Presidential candidate.  When Bill Clinton ran with Al Gore, their success was partially attributed to the fact that they constituted a “Double Bubba” ticket.  A Barack – Hillary ticket would not only lack the essential Southerner, but it would consist of an African-American and a woman.  This would cause The Redneck Factor to become a huge obstacle to Obama’s success.  (It’s bad enough as it is.  Why make it worse?)

Fourth problem:  Bill.  Hillary’s campaign had all it could do to keep him under control.  Some writers wondered whether he was more of a liability than an asset to her campaign.  Hillary was stuck with him.  Barack is not.

Fifth point:  It would make Obama’s campaign look weak.  It would suggest to some that he could never win the Presidency himself and that he needs the Clinton brand to get him over the finish line.

Hillary would have needed Barack, but Barack does not need Hillary.  If the Clinton camp had been able to do a “backroom deal” at the convention and make her the Presidential nominee, the party would have fractured without Obama on the ticket.  Most of the fantasizing about an Obama – Clinton ticket is coming from television commentators, who are enmeshed in the info-tainment industry.  This isn’t a Julia Roberts movie. It’s the real world.


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May 4, 2008

You can’t follow the news these days without the word “pander” jumping out at you on a constant basis.  This is primarily because of Hillary Clinton’s support for the summer “Gas Tax Holiday”.  As Barack Obama has repeatedly pointed out:  it was originally John McCain’s idea and Hillary picked it up.  To replace the lost gas tax money (approximately nine billion dollars) Hillary has proposed legislation calling for the oil companies to pay a “windfall profits tax”, which will be used to fund alternative sources of energy.  The lost gas tax money would have been used to support infrastructure, most importantly construction to restore our crumbling highways and bridges.  Hillary’s plan has received loud criticism from across the spectrum of political and editorial opinion.  Even in its May 2, 2008 endorsement of Clinton, the Indianapolis Star, in an editorial entitled:  “Experience Makes Clinton Better Choice in Primary” the admission was made that: “Clinton regrettably has pandered more to voters, particularly on gas prices, than Obama.”   If they were really taking experience into consideration, they might have been curious enough to inquire as to whether Obama had any experience on the subject of a summer “gas tax holiday”.  What they would have learned was discussed by Obama on the May 4, 2008 broadcast of Meet the Press.   He explained that as a member of the Illinois Senate, he voted for a similar suspension of the (state) gas tax.  He admitted:  “… six months later, we took a look and consumers had not benefited at all. I learned from a mistake.”

Clinton’s counterpunch to the voice of experience is to stick with the Swift Boat strategy used by her campaign in labeling Obama as an “elitist”.  Her response:  “Elite opinion is always on the side of doing things that really disadvantage the vast majority of Americans.”  When one recalls Hillary’s choreographed stop at an Indiana gas pump, where she had to admit that she doesn’t really operate any gas pumps herself, since this is done by the Secret Service, some bells should start ringing.  Maybe the “elite opinion” is coming from the former First Lady who shares $109,000,000 with her husband and who never has to touch a gas pump herself.  The lopsided majority of commentators have insisted that it is this “Gas Tax Holiday” combined with the proposed windfall profits tax, which would “really disadvantage the vast majority of Americans”.  As Newsweek’s Jonathan Alter pointed out on MSNBC’s Countdown on May 2:  Clinton’s strategy seems to be based on the notion that “… people are too stupid to realize this is a bad idea that won’t save us any money and actually hurts us at the pump” and that “only Elites will notice this”.  Mr. Alter has aptly observed that Clinton’s strategy here is targeted at “low information voters” who have not been exposed to the unanimous editorial opposition expressed against this proposal.  Whether this strategy pays off in Indiana or North Carolina will ultimately be measured by the manner in which the precious superdelegates react to the results of these primaries.  In the mean time, some aren’t waiting.  On May 2, former Democratic National Committee Chair and Massachusetts supderdelegate, Paul G. Kirk, Jr., endorsed Barack Obama.

Meanwhile, on the Republican side, John McCain’s team has launched a new 30-second TV ad called “Health Solutions”.  In it, the announcer runs through a list of “Bold solutions for America’s health-care mess”.  One of these is to “End junk lawsuits that tax consumers.”  There is no explanation as to what this really means.  All we can draw from this is more of the same restriction of access by consumers to the civil justice system, in their efforts to redress their grievances against corporations.  What happened to the “maverick” McCain we remember from the 2000 race?  Is he just pandering to the Hard Right or is he actually drinking the White House Kool Aid?  Time will tell.