Merlin wore sandy military fatigues as he addressed my class. He stood in the center of the room grinning and showing off his uniform. "No buttons or zippers, just Velcro," he said pulling at a flap on his arm.
[. . .]
I fell out of contact with Merlin. An e-mail in February went unreturned. Two weeks ago, I got a call from a friend in the village. Merlin was dead.
After his first tour in Iraq, Merlin only hinted that he'd seen a lot of things. Due to report back, he decided to stay in Chevak. With the threat of repercussions from his AWOL looming, Merlin committed suicide.
Merlin's fate, I learned, is hardly unusual. Internal e-mails of the Department of Veterans Affairs revealed an epidemic of suicides among America's vets. "Shh!" cautioned a VA official in an e-mail. "Our suicide prevention coordinators are identifying about 1,000 suicide attempts per month among veterans we see in our medical facilities."
The last time I would see Merlin, at a community dance, I told him to be safe.
I worried the war would kill him. I just never thought it would kill him at home.
The above is from Soren Wuerth's "Serving in Iraq took its toll on Cup'ik soldier from Chevak" (Anchorage Daily News) and Blake noted it. The suicide story was uncovered by Real Media -- CBS especially but newspapers, etc. Panhandle Media didn't do a damn thing. As usual.
If you missed it, there was a primary yesterday. "South Dakotans' Reaction to Hillary's West Virginia Win" (HillaryClinton.com):
South Dakota for Hillary released the following statements from former State Senator and Public Utilities Commissioner Jim Burg and former State Senator and Democratic State Party Chair Judy Duhamel in reaction to Hillary’s decisive victory in West Virginia tonight:
Former State Senator Public Utilities Commissioner Jim Burg:
"Throughout this campaign, Hillary has offered real solutions to the challenges we face: a struggling economy, skyrocketing energy prices and too many working Americans falling out of the middle class. West Virginians responded to her message, and I believe South Dakotans are also looking for a candidate with the experience to address the challenges working families are facing. In the past 90 years, no Democrat has won the White House without winning West Virginia, and Hillary's convincing victory there tonight suggests that she is the best candidate to take on the Republicans in November and start turning our country around on day one. Voters here in South Dakota deserve the opportunity to have their voices heard on June 3 just as West Virginia had their say today."
Former State Senator and Democratic State Party Chair Judy Duhamel:
"Tonight’s decisive victory in West Virginia proves that voters in one of the nation’s most important swing states believe Hillary is the strongest candidate to take on Sen. McCain in the Fall. Despite being outspent, having less staff and fewer offices, Hillary connected with hardworking West Virginians demonstrating that she is the most qualified candidate to jumpstart the economy, tackle spiraling gas prices and restore the middle class. South Dakotans will go to the polls on June 3 with an opportunity to play an important role in the Democratic nominating process and have their voices heard. As president, Hillary will stand up for us, work with us and fight for us everyday to create a better life for our families, now it’s time we stand beside her."
Ava and C.I. here to do our part explaining what the media forgets or refuses to. Comical laughs began last night with closeted lesbian (can you be "closeted" after Andrew Sullivan outs you in print?) Donna Brazile insisting on CNN that West Virginia wasn't a loss for Barack Obama, it was just a win for Hillary. Brazile's had a lot of practice with public denial. But she better sharpen her excuses because if Barack should get the nomination, in November, she's going to be tossing off a lot more laughable excuses to explain how the Democrats lost the election.
The Democrats can't lose! That's what the gas bags and a number in the media keep telling you. They told you the same thing in 2004. And they told you John Kerry was immune to the GOP dirty tricks because, get this, he's a war hero!
July was his last month of glory. The DNC convention didn't help any. They rejected the transformative moment in Kerry's narrative, where he speaks out against the war and asks how anyone can ask a soldier to be the last man to die in Vietnam? They went with war hero. They went with it so much that it was all they had. The GOP doesn't attack your weaknesses. They find your strongest quality and undermine that. That's how they work.
No one seemed to grasp at the convention just how badly the candidate had been presented as it was rah-rah war hero over and over. "Reporting for duty" and other nonsense. Instead of using that phony, staged convention to introduce elements of the candidate, they went with war hero over and over. So when the GOP attacked Kerry's war record, as they were always going to do, he wasn't left with much else. He'd blown his moment to define himself in any other way.
He also blew it, during the GOP convention, by refusing to address the smears. That requires more than calling them out. Kerry would eventually (too late) do that. But all it was was a talking head saying, "IT'S NOT TRUE!" It's not enough to refute charges over and over, you have to demonstrate to people that you are just like them or it becomes, "Yeah, I heard him denying it." 2004 was the election that would put a Democrat in the White House. It was the election that John Kerry couldn't lose.
But of course he did and the same thing is in play today.
Facts and predictors are being ignored to push a can't-lose candidate who is already losing. Yesterday, Fernando Suarez (CBS News) quoted Hillary explaining, "West Virginia has a record of picking presidents. West Virginia made it possible for President Kennedy to become president of the United States. West Virginia in the general election votes for the winner and if West Virginia had voted for our Democratic nominee in 2000 and 2004 we wouldn't have had to put up with George Bush."
If that's noted at all today, it's just to give lip service.
Today? On NBC's Today, Matt Lauer got to do the heavy hitting, he got to speak with Andrea Mitchell and Tim Russert. To Mitchell, Lauer insisted that Hillary Clinton "still remains far behind Barack Obama in the delegate count. He continues to pick up super delegates . . ." Take a breath, Matt. You're not a political reporter and your days of 'reporting' don't include a real convention.
We should probably drop back and explain the uproar over the 2004 conventions when network television decided to cut air time for them. The networks argued it was ceremonial and you had a lot of whiners screaming, "Not fair!" Here's reality, 2004 was ceremonial. Conventions warrented coverage in the past because they were actually news, they were where the candidate was selected. If the candidates already decided, they're nothing but infomericals and honestly don't warrant lengthy news coverage or live air time on the networks. It's not news, it's ceremony.
Now what makes a convention newsworthy is a contested race. What happens in those is the candidate is decided on the convention floor. This nonsense about 'pledged' delegates is nonsense because on a convention floor, alliances change as quickly as the ground shifts.
There is a magic number of delegates, by the DNC rules, that a candidate can reach and be pretty sure they're the candidate. Neither Barack or Hillary will win that marker. It doesn't matter who's closer. The DNC does not award the nomination based upon poximity.
The two are tied and, by the rules, if both remain in the race, the convention decides it.
So unless one of them drops out, by the rules, the race goes to the convention floor. The media can certainly note delegate counts but they need to back off from the nonsense that it means anything. They can also note the popular vote but they need to remember two things. As we've long pointed out (here and here -- to cite two times), Florida and Michigan are not contested. There is no debate that they held primaries. Those are events that took place. The DNC may have to figure out what to do regarding delegates but those primaries took place and the results were certified. Those two states are part of the popular vote count unless/until they have have re-vote.
Barack wasn't on the ballot! Boo-hoo. He chose to forfeit. That's reality. He did it (a) because his internal polling showed him coming in third (Hillary in first place, John Edwards in second) and (b) because he wanted to try to use that to appeal to Iowa and New Hampshire. Maybe it helped him those states, maybe it didn't. But the Clinton campaign hasn't argued, "No fair counting Iowa! He used not being on the ballot in Michigan to campaign for support in Iowa!" The results are the results and everyone needs to stop babying Barack.
The GOP won't baby him and he needs to take his lumps the same as any other candidate. He chose to take his name off the ballot in Michigan. Some did, some didn't. It wasn't required that you remove your name. He made a big show about removing his name. He had his surrogates campaign for "none of the above" because he hoped that the state he couldn't win would merge Edwards and his support into a bloc powerful enough to beat Hillary. Didn't happen. She still won. (His campaign had implied to Dennis Kucinich's campaign that they would push for Dennis, one of the candidates on the ballot, if Kucinich would throw his supporters to Barack in Iowa. Kucinich tossed them to Barack in Iowa. The implied payback in Michigan didn't come.)
He failed. His strategy failed. In terms of delegates, he's still using that strategy for Michigan, insisting that all "none of the above" belong to him even though that included Edwards voters, Biden voters and people just sick of the nominees period.
The strategy backfired and he got no votes in Michigan because he took his name off the ballot. That's no one's fault but his own.
The second thing to remember is that at a convention, popular votes and delegates awarded are markers. They aren't predictors. They are things that are looked at. Nothing more.
Don't like the system? Change it. But that's the system in place and the system the 2008 race has to abide by to be legitimate.
The reality is that the race is a tie and, by the rules, should be decided at the convention. Some in DNC leadership are fretting that. "It's so late!" Well the convention could have been in July but the big whines in 2004 was that having it so early tied John Kerry's hands. Once the candidate is declared the nominee, the federal limits apply for presidential races -- not for primaries. They are two different things. And 2004 was all about, "Poor John Kerry! He'll have to cover six more weeks of spending than Bully Boy because the GOP is holding their convention at the end of August to try to get on a September 11th bandwagon." Reality, nothing's ever going to be perfect.
The DNC chose to push the convention back to August. No one forced them to do so.
Two candidates are in a dead-heat. Nothing's been decided by the primaries (and laughable caucuses) and nothing will be. Both candidates should remain in the race and take it to the convention floor where they make the arguments for their electability.
That is the issue for the Democratic Party: Who has the best chance of winning in November?
It's not about anything else. Donna Brazile can act like a win for Hillary is not a loss for Obama and maybe she believes it. She did her part to ruin Michael Dukakis' 1988 campaign (rushing to the press to spill on Poppy Bush's extra-marital affair and getting fired from the campaign for doing so) and Al Gore's 2000 win when Donna (who brags today that Republican men are so much nicer to her than Democratic men) didn't want to fight. She's a loser who should lose her super delegate status and her DNC job for her e-mail last week which included "Message to the base: Stay home."
On the convention floor anything can happen. Let's visit the GOP 1980 convention when it was known Reagan would be the nominee. Gerald Ford was almost the v.p. on that ticket. That was decided at the convention. Deals are made and the issue is who can win?
That's what makes conventions news. Not a bunch of testimonial speeches.
The two candidates are in a tie. That's reality and that's what a functioning press would be reporting.
Andrea Mitcell told Matt Lauer that Hillary "scored a lop-sided victory" but she didn't discuss that (nor did Matt question her on it to dig deep into what the victory might be saying). Andrea was to busy rushing off to what she dubbed "reality" that Hillary "has not, even with the victory" narrowed the delegate race. The delegate race ceased being a determining factor when it long ago became clear neither would achieve the magic number.
But Barack's campaign made it about that (and not the popular vote) early on and forgetting that reporters report, the journalists have been happy to let one campaign dictate what the yardstick 'is' and silly things like reality need not interfere with the narratives.
Andrea noted that Barack will most likely not carry Kentucky "unless there is a major change in the way he connects to people."
That's the phone Matt should have picked up because it was an important call. Andrea just noted a marker. Barack couldn't connect with West Virginia and may not connect with Kentucky. Those are serious issues and ones that would be explored at a convention. ("Explored" translates as concerns as everyone rushes to line up support.)
Matt wasn't interested in picking up the phone. He was interested in saying, "We all knew, even as we were saying this race was over," that Hillary would be the victor in West Virginia.
Then why were they saying it? Reporters report what happens. Reporters are not obligated to pick up a campaign's talking point despite the fact that they have picked up Barack's talking point.
West Virginia and Kentucky do not matter?
By refusing to allow a revote, the Obama campaign has already said Michigan and Florida don't count. So that's four states out of fifty (or out of fifty-eight, if, like Barack, you don't know how many states are in the United States) that are already being told they don't matter and it sends a message.
Matt was a little more on point by noting that despite the media saying it didn't matter. Despite that, "the people of West Virginia heard the pundits" and yet "they're sending a very strong message." "the people of West Virginia sent a very different message."
Yes, they did.
And that's alarming for a number of reasons. Barack still can't connect with working class voters. He has the African-American community sewn up at present (if he wasn't baptized and that comes out, it will be a huge issue for the African-American community because it's one more indication that he's not who he appears) and that's all incomes. But the working class is the largest segment in the country and includes more than one racial group. He still can't connect with Latinos (and won't be able to in California or Florida based upon what we've seen on the ground there which includes a very firm hardening against him as the race has continued). He can't connecct with the White working class. (He has trouble with the Asian-American community as well -- serious trouble -- but they're a bit more affluent so we're not including them in working class.) In the primaries, he's faced far fewer working class people than the nominee will have to face in the fall. The caucus system does not work to the benefit of the working class (which cannot take hours and hours off). People will vote on election day in November, they will not be caucusing. There will be a secret ballot. Texas proved one thing: Barack supporters can caucus. If it's run the clock out, they can do that. If it's show up to vote, they don't do that so well. Which is why Hillary won the primary and Barack won the caucus in Texas. (That's among the reasons. There were also extensive problems with the caucuses and the gina & krista round-robin has documented many of the 'irregularities' and violations.)
The only state that allowed the working class to participate easily in caucuses was Nevada and who won that? Hillary.
Andrea Mitchell was referring to a key point and one that should have been explored both for journalism and for ratings because Today, if it is to remain number one, needs viewers from all states. But the point was quickly forgotten.
Why can't he connect with working class voters? Why do they see him as out of touch?
When a candidate has that sort of problem it doesn't go away. It's dealt with early in the campaign or it becomes an issue just waiting for the flub or photo-op that turns the candidate into a source of national ridicule. Had Iowa's Whole Foods arugala remark come in April, it would already be over for Barack. Flashy pool tricks this week didn't make Barack look like a sportsman, they made him look flashy and like a pool hustler and, pay attention elites, no one in a pool hall trusts a hustler.
That's a very serious marker and one that would go into the mix in a floor fight at the convention.
Barack and his surrogates have used the false cry of racism over and over in the campaign. That's also alienated a huge portion of the voting public. Mention the drug use that Barack wrote about and joked about on The Tonight Show and the campaign hollers racism (after the fact, the incident they most like to cite included David Axelrod, Barack's campaign manger, in the interview and Axelrod never objected to Chris Matthews repeatedly asking the question or called it racism -- it's only when the campaign can spin it afterwards that it's racism). A group of Latino students (against the war) had dissected the campaign's use of those false cries very well. They noted Barack sends out his surrogates to the media to cry racism. They noted Barack doesn't call it out. They noted he lets it play out for headlines. And then, after he's gotten all his campaign can use from it, he delivers a 'unifying' statement that the person isn't a racist or a bad person. And he gets applauded for that. As if he doesn't control his own campaign, as if he's not part of the charges of racism. (They also noted that after he gets his applause, at some point, he returns to the subject and later implies the person was racist.)
The campaign has repeatedly suggested that if you're not for Barack, you're a racist. Panhandle Media has certainly carried that trick out as well. But racism is serious and when you belittle it by calling any opponent a racist, you're like the little boy crying wolf and, after awhile, no one believes you.
He's run an ugly campaign and African-Americans have lived with ugly racism (so have other groups) so it registers (especially with liars like Michael Eric Dyson playing that charge on campuses every chance they get). But outside of the African-American community, it doesn't register so well. "Eggheads" who are White love it. They're the ones who insist that all Whites, except themselves, are racists. If that's really what they think of the country, you wonder (a) why they don't ever do anything to address racism (Betsy Reed ignores it when selecting what appears in The Nation -- a very White, Anglo publication with only one African-American writer) and (b) why they don't leave the country if they're seeing racism everywhere? If that's really what they think is the "typical White person," then why are they staying? It's not to fight racism because that yearly story The Nation runs on Brown v. Board of Education really isn't confronting racism. But then the magazine's own selection of stories to run and writers to hire really don't confront racism either. For the "eggheads" racism is a charge they make to make themselves feel better . . . about themsevles.
Race relations in this country are not just Black and White and several states have learned that when they attempted to run campaigns on that notion. There's talk that Bill Richardson could be on the ticket if Barack gets the nomination. That's not very likely because the super delegates we speak to bring up the Texas "dream ticket" where Texas Democrats just knew they had a winning combo of Ron Kirk (centrist, corpartist, not even smart enough to advertise his run on Dallas stations despite the fact that those channels reach the DFW area and into East Texas), Tony Sanchez (and a White man whose name we forget, sorry). This was going to do the trick! And all it did was alienate voters. They're discussing that and why it turned out the way it did. So it's very unlikely that Richards would be on the ticket but, even if he did get on the ticket and Barack got the nomination, Barack can't carry Latinos. He's seen as too weak.
He doesn't have the qualities that Latinos look for in leadership. They can, and did, support Ahnuld for governor. They could relate to him. The fact that he was rich and from another country didn't create a barrier. It's too late in the game for Barack to tear down the barrier and his Latino surrogates have only made things worse. (And, in one's case, worse for themselves.)
The question Matt should have been asking on air is, "We keep saying he's the nominee and the race is over, but if that's true, why did he lose West Virginia?"
That's what they should have explored. Not markers like delegate count which are meaingless since neither candidate will reach the magic mark and since "I got the most delegates!" won't mean a thing to any voter in November.
In her victory speech last night, Hillary declared, "After tonight's tremendous victory here in West Virginia, it's clear that the pundits declaring this race over have it all wrong. The voters in West Virginia spoke loud and clear -- they want this contest to go on." That's what should have been explored.
On CBS' The Early Show, Dean Reynolds attempted to give a report but couldn't keep from noting "the numbers" and the numbers don't matter. (The 20 million dollar debt may be the only one that matters.) The numbers that matter were buried in his report: the number of Democrats stating that they would vote for John McCain if Hillary was the nominee.
It featured a clip where Barack was mouthing about how a vote for John McCain would be giving a third term to the Bully Boy and that's part of Barack's problem. The myth is that he was against the illegal war from the start and that he stayed against it. It's not true but it's too late to change perceptions. So when he speaks about mistakes, he is on dangerous ground. No one likes a know-it-all. "Eggheads" do, it's a case of like attracting like. The reality is that a lot of Americans voted for Bully Boy. He wouldn't have been in the White House if that wasn't the case. (Yes, 2000 was stolen.) A lot of Americans supported the illegal war.
Barack's Little Mister Perfect. The eggheads and his campaign don't grasp that they created that trap for him. He's always right! That's the myth. And his statements are inprecise and often hit voters.
He thinks he's targeting the Bully Boy but he's shooting scatteshot and hitting a lot of voters with his charges.
Hillary's position on Iraq, as portrayed by the media, is more consistent with the public view. Barack's is "I was right! I was right!" And it really irritates people because not everyone knew everything from day one. So when he criticizes McCain, he needs to be specific about policies (Barack's weakest area) and stop insulting voters. His "third term" nonsense doesn't play well. It does for Hillary to say it but for him to say it, it plays into his larger image problems, "He really doesn't like us. Oh, look, he's insulting us again."
Dean Reynolds ended his report with "you can draw your own opinion." For that, the reporters would have to be reporting and that would mean including all of the popular vote in the popular vote count and addressing why the candidate they continue to insist is the nominee remains so estranged from the public.
But that's reality. And the Myth of Barack means reality must be ignored. You saw that on Today when Matt spoke with David Gregory. Gregory was off in fantasy land, claiming that past electoral patterns didn't matter and Matt appeared to be agreeing with comments such as, "The formula may be different than it was in the past." In any election, states may flip but you need to have your base of support for that to matter. You also need to have reality. Gregory stated -- without questioning -- that Barack believes he'll do well in states that went Republican in the previous presidential elections "where growing Hispanice populations" will change the outcome.
Barack has no Hispanic support. He will have even less if he gets the nomination when Hillary's been the clear Democratic choice of Latinos. Note that we said "Democratic" choice. John McCain would stand a good chance of beating Barack with Latino voters. That's the issue that has had so many of his GOP challengers -- now all gone -- attacking McCain throughout the primary.
Hillary won big last night. She got 67% of the vote (after all precints had reported). There seems to be a dismisal of that huge win with, "Oh that's just White voters." White voters are all over America. "Oh that's just the 'uneducated'." No, it's the working class and Hillary carried them in a state the Democrats need. Pretending otherwise is lying. Just like it's lying to imply Barack's going to do well with Latinos.
The Today segment ended with Matt and David overlapping, Matt saying "So we may have to rethink the way we look at things," and David saying, "it's new math." New math? Remember new math in the seventies at public schools? It didn't go over well ('old' math returned). It's not "new math," it's a denial of reality.
2008, the Barack team wants you to believe, is the year that Dems don't need their traditional states (or voters), they're going to remake the whole system! It's something they would try to walk away from three weeks after the November election, if Barack got the nomination. When it was time to analyze the loss, they'd have a million excuses. Donna Brazile would probably, "It's not a loss for Barack. It's a win for McCain/Ralph Nader, but it's not a loss for Barack." Yeah, it would be. His loss and the Democratic Party's.
They just knew they could win in 2004. They just knew they were unbeatable. Barack supporters think the same thing today. They cry and moan about Hillary's 'bad' campaign. It's so dirty, they insist. The Clinton campaign hasn't accused Barack of beating his wife. They haven't run a dirty campaign. But it's a sign of how weak Barack's campaign and how insulated his supporters are that this impression has taken hold.
At some point the ABC debate will be the focus of a book study and it will be noted that Hillary was asked as many tough questions in the first half as was Barack. FAIR and the other losers ignored that (FAIR noted one question to Hillary -- while pretending they're an impartial media watchdog -- one that sends out mailings on Barack non-stop but has never called out the sexism by the media towards Hillary). But read over the transcript and it's there. The difference is Hillary handled her tough questions. Barack couldn't.
And this idea that Barack can't be asked about Bill Ayers and Bernardine Dohrn is ridiculous. In a cover story in 2006, The Nation was sliming Dohrn (and Dohrn responded with a letter to the magazine). Now the same Panhandle Media wants to pretend that it's off-limits to ask a candidate about his ties to people who were fugitives from the law for over a decade.
With Jeremiah Wright, the ground finally shifted and Panhandle Media couldn't change it despite all the lies. When written about by Real Media, most note that he damned the country from the pulpit. Panhandle Media tried to pretend that people were shocked by the 'language,' the 'curse word.' No, people were shocked that a pastor would stand before a church and call for the damnation of a country.
You've heard a million excuses from Panhandle Media and Eggheads. It has nothing to do with racism. If John McCain's pastor had done the same, and the pastor was White, it would be offensive and the same ones who still try to deny that fact would be calling it out. Someone who wants to be president is pretty stupid if they attend a church where a pastor damns the country they want to be the leader of.
Panhandle Media got on board the 2008 election before the 2006 November mid-terms took place. Their opinions bubbled up to the mainstream, poisoned it. But they've exposed themselves and their influence is waning. Like their candidate of choice.
If Barack were the nominee, as gas bags have insisted, he would have won West Virginia. He's not the nominee. There is no nominee at present and, as long as they both remain in the race, the rules and guidelines dictate this is settled at the convention.
The Obama campaign has every reason to spin reality. It benefits their candidate. The media is supposed to be objective (hard to tell with all the swooing over Barack in jeans by the press -- and we can identify the two women's voices so their outlets can, both women should be pulled from the Obama campaign immediately, not reassigned to the Hillary campaign where they can work their bias, just assigned to a different topic -- and if we could identify them, you better believe the McCain campaign could). It's past time the Real Press started acting like they were practicing journalism.
The e-mail address for this site is firstname.lastname@example.org.