Sunday, June 29, 2008

Bamboozling the American electorate again

Original Link:

Strategy has involved G.O.P. crossover voting to take out Clinton, marketing newcomer Obama, stripping battleground delegates, threatening violence at the convention, and (if necessary) declaring martial law to prevent November's general election. Meanwhile, revelations about the Illinois senator's ties to Chicago political fixer Tony Rezko and two Iraqi agents are downplayed by the press. For their part, Democratic Party leaders have circumvented the official nominating process, declaring Obama the nominee by breaking their own rules.
(Note: Printing out in PDF format is recommended.)

Revised and updated June 13, 2008

Evidence of a covert campaign to undermine the presidential primaries is rife, so it's curious that many within both the Democratic and Republican parties have ignored the actual elephant in the room this year. That would be Karl Rove, the G.O.P.'s longtime political strategist. Accused of rigging the two previous presidential elections, this master of deceit would have us believe he's gone off to sit in a corner and write op-eds.

Not so. According to an article in Time magazine last November, Republicans were organized in several states to throw their weight behind frontrunner Senator Hillary Clinton's principle rival for the Democratic nomination, Senator Barack Obama. While Rove's name isn't mentioned in the story, several former fundraisers and strategists for President Bush are identified. With the help of Wall Street investment firms, these gentlemen helped flush Obama's coffers with cash early on in the race, something the conservative deep pockets had not done for any candidate in their own party. With receipts topping $100 million in 2007, the freshman senator achieved a remarkable feat, given he only first appeared on the national scene in 2004. In fact, the vast majority of Americans did not even hear of him until 2006.

To expedite the Rove strategy, a website and discussion forum called Republicans for Obama formed in 2006. The executive director of New Hampshire's Republican Party, Stephen DeMaura, later established “Stop Hillary Clinton (One Million Strong AGAINST Hillary)” on Facebook. At the same time, the Obama camp launched its own initiative targeted at Republican primary voters called "Be a Democrat For a Day". The campaign included a video that was circulated in Florida, Nevada, Vermont and elsewhere explaining the process of switching parties for the election. In addition, many states nowadays hold open primaries, allowing citizens to vote for any candidate, regardless of their party affiliation. In Nebraska, the mayor of Omaha publicly rallied Republicans and Independents to caucus for Obama on February 9th. In Pennsylvania, Time reported on March 19th that Obama was running radio ads in Pittsburgh and Philadelphia asking Republicans to register as Democrats and then vote for him in the state's April 22nd primary.

The tactic, called crossover voting, allowed Obama to open up an unsurmountable lead in pledged delegates. Republicans for Obama was certainly not bashful in making its case in an email appeal linked to its home page before the March 4th contests. "Since Texas has an open primary," the appeal read, "Republicans and Independents should sign in at their polling place and request a Democratic ballot. They should then vote for Barack Obama... Just think, no more Clintons in the White House." Then there was Iowa, which held the nation's first caucus on January 3rd. Here G.O.P. winner Mike Huckabee received just half as many votes as Clinton, who finished third behind Obama and John Edwards.

Of the 17 states holding open primaries, Obama has won 13 of them. And an analysis of the caucus results to date shows that a disproportionate sum of delegates has been awarded to Obama, apparently by design of the Democratic National Committee. Oddly, red states - i.e. those who normally vote Republican in the general election - have been allowed to exercise undue influence on the process, a quirk that dovetailed nicely with G.O.P. strategy to knock Clinton out of the running before November. For instance, Obama's 13,700 vote margin in the Nebraska caucus netted him 8 pledged delegates, whereas Clinton netted only 9 delegates from her whopping 204,000 vote victory in Ohio's primary. In Texas, which holds both a primary and caucus, Obama gained 5 more pledged delegates than Clinton, despite the fact that she won the election by a 100,000 vote margin. And although Clinton won the Nevada caucus, the Obama camp managed to finagle more pledged delegates at the state convention held after the vote.

Such discrepancies bring into context what Time meant when it talked about Obama's "red state appeal." Even with the full compliment of election-scamming tools - phone bank sabotage, fake polling data, swiftboating, waitlisting, electronic voting equipment, Norman Hsu, etc. - at their disposal, the G.O.P. would be hard pressed to eclipse Clinton in a general election. By the end of 2007, she held a commanding lead in public opinion polls and boasted a large campaign war chest of her own. Thus, all the vote-rigging tricks known to man wouldn't make much difference if the contest weren't close, and in her case, it likely wouldn't be. Several influential Republicans admitted as much in a February 11th story for Politico. At the Conservative Political Action Conference in Washington, also held in February, a single banner strung over the exhibits hall seemed to encapsulate the 2008 election strategy of the Republican Party. It read "Anybody but Hillary".

On June 4th, that sentiment became reality when Clinton acquiesced to pressure from Democratic Party leaders and announced she would both supsend her campaign and endorse Obama. The concession came 40 years to the day of the assassination of Robert F. Kennedy in 1968, after he won the California primary. Clinton supporters angrily denounced the strong-arm tactics, claiming the DNC was conspiring with the Obama campaign to subvert the nominating process. Like RFK, Clinton had surged towards the end of the primary season, winning six of nine states, and looked to have a real chance of victory at the party's August gathering in Denver. By contrast, Obama's support had been teetering in the wake of revelations about his long relationship with Pastor Jeremiah Wright of Trinity Church in Chicago, as well as his connection to Chicago political fixer Tony Rezko.

Citing the need for party unity, the DNC declared Obama the official nominee on June 3rd based on the input of superdelegates, a group of nearly 800 elected leaders and party officials who normally don't vote until the convention. The Obama campaign immediately assumed control over the party apparatus and treasury, and much to the chagrin of Clinton activists and donors, her internet contact lists have now become the property of her rival.

Presidential Race, Next American Idol or Bait & Switch?

While this year's primary season has been the most closely followed in American history, Obama himself remains a relatively unknown quantity. For her part, the author of the November Time article, Jay Newton-Small, offered the following explanation to account for the love affair G.O.P. voters claim they're having with an African American senator on the other side of the aisle. "It seems a lot of Republicans took to heart Obama's statement in his rousing speech at the 2004 Democratic National Convention that 'there is not a liberal America and a conservative America — there is the United States of America.'"

Is she kidding? The conservative publication National Journal claims Senator Obama's voting record is the most liberal in Washington. Not everyone agrees with that assessment by a long shot - for starters, he supported the controversial 2005 Cheney energy bill - but it's nevertheless hard to picture the voting pattern Newton-Small implies: Nixon - Reagan - Bush - Dole - Bush - Obama. At the same time, an equally suspect position is advanced by journalists that describes his opponent, the first-ever female frontrunner for president, as representing the past.

The media has also staked out a role in shaping the process, if not the outcome, this time around. While Clinton was commanding that huge lead in the national polls last fall, political analysts and professional strategists retained by CNN and other broadcast networks began hammering across the notion that "the voters don't like her". Incorporating the use of psychological branding, adjectives like "divisive", "polarizing", and "untrustworthy" have been repeated over and over in connection to Clinton in the same manner that "biological warfare" and "weapons of mass destruction" were disseminated in the lead-up to the Iraq War. In addition, beginning on the eve of the New Hampshire primary, the senator from New York has been roundly derided in the media as the losing candidate. Before Indiana-North Carolina primaries on May 6th, the term "panderer" was added to list of press buzzwords, ostensibly in response to Clinton's senate bill to transfer the federal gas tax to the oil companies.

Not surprisingly, much of the pejorative terminology traces back to a cadre of right-wing, neoconservative ideologues who keep the studio seats warm at Fox News Channel. "There is no candidate on record, a front-runner for a party's nomination, who has entered the primary season with negatives as high as she has," Rove told Reuters last August. Joining Fox as a part-time election analyst last February, he forgets to mention each time he dwells on this theme that the conclusion is borne of a tautology.

Throughout the primaries, Obama himself recited Rove's "high negatives" comment in press interviews whenever discussing Clinton. His often bitter criticism of her, along with other "Washington insiders", who he says want to "boil and stew all the hope out of him", represents a staple of his core political message. (Ironically, it was those same Washington insiders who boiled and stewed all the hope out of his rival's presidential campaign.) The other half of the stump speech, known as the I'm-a-uniter-not-a-divider pitch, is reminiscent of the Bush 2000 campaign, which Rove managed. And one of Obama's speechwriters, Ben Rhodes, is the brother of Fox News VP David Rhodes, according to Marisa Guthrie of BC Beat. You may recall that on election night in November 2000, it was Fox that called Florida for Bush, even though the other networks declared Gore the winner based on the exit polls. How Fox knew the polls were wrong in advance of the votes being counted has never been explained.

The G.O.P. links to Obama don't end there, either. The Times of London reported on March 2nd that Obama had interviewed conservative Republican lawmakers Senators Chuck Hagel and Richard Lugar for key positions in a future cabinet. "Senior advisers confirmed that Hagel, a highly decorated Vietnam war veteran and one of McCain’s closest friends in the Senate, was considered an ideal candidate for defence secretary." the story revealed. "Some regard the outspoken Republican as a possible vice-presidential nominee although that might be regarded as a 'stretch'." Lugar, who placed Obama's name on his nuclear non-proliferation bill two years ago, is being evaluated as a potential secretary of state.

Although Obama says he has always opposed the Iraq War, he appears to be linked to Bush Administration policy there through his principle political benefactor in Chicago, Tony Rezko. Rezko received a contract to build a power plant in Iraq through a college chum appointed as the new Minister of Electricity in 2003. Like other Iraqi exiles recruited for posts by Coalition Provisional Authority Administrator L. Paul Bremmer, Aiham Alsammarae absconded hundreds of millions of dollars in reconstruction funds as part of a crime spree dubbed "The Mother of all Heists" by 60 Minutes correspondent Steve Kroft. Currently wanted by Interpol (but apparently not the U.S. Government), Alsammarae now lives in Illinois, where he has donated several times to Obama's presidential campaign. (See below for more on Obama's Rezko/Iraq connections.)

Meanwhile, presumptive G.O.P. nominee John McCain still has to be confirmed at his own convention in September. Interestingly, this gathering takes place after the Democratic meeting. Given the constant grumbling of conservatives about McCain, who they claim is too liberal, his nomination may not be the slam dunk everyone thinks. For example, the candidate's fundraising fortunes continued to flounder until April, when he struck an arrangement that gives the Republican National Committee the bulk of his receipts. It's possible that Rove may be angling to disqualify him on grounds of poor health, or by employing some as-yet unknown technical maneuver to prevent his nomination on the first ballot. Under such a scenario, Rove could then field a draft presidential ticket with closer ideological roots to his former employer. At present, there's no evidence of any plan in the works.

On the Democratic side, in addition to crossover voting to cancel her out, the Clinton camp has had to contend with a Madison Avenue-style internet marketing campaign that's allowed her rival to gain an intractable foothold among voters under thirty. In the space of a year's time, the persona that is Barack Obama has barnstormed cyberspace, where he is heralded as something akin to the Starbucks equivalent of Gandhi. A steady stream of free videos touting the candidate's rock star status has appeared on You-Tube since 2007, including the professionally produced "Obama Girl" clip. This trendy visual feast features a bikini-clad actress gyrating her bottom as she lip-synchs lyrics of veneration to the candidate.

Even a cursory review of Obama's record does not bear out the hype surrounding him. During an MSNBC interview in February, Austin State Senator Kirk Watson, an Obama endorser, was unable to list a single accomplishment of the candidate when asked. A week later, a Q and A session with a focus group for the Fox program Hannity and Colmes uncovered the same knowlege gap. (A CNN focus group yielded similar results in late April.) None of those voters supporting Obama could identify any past achievement. It was Obama's present-day venture that fascinated them, the historic nature of his quest to become the country's first African-American president, along with his inspirational oratory.

In addition to the merchandising angle, nobody would have predicted a few years ago that progressive journalists would join in an unholy alliance with Fox News Channel to promote a politician with such a shadowy proximity group. Yet here we are. Ari Berman, a writer at The Nation, was seen in March popping up on Fox programs he and his staff once regarded as 24/7 campaign commercials for the Republican Party. And editor Katrina Vanden Heuvel has been using CNN to promote Obama's allegedly squeaky clean credentials, claiming he gets no support from lobbyists or corporate special interests. The assertion has been widely debuned by the Center for Responsive Politics' website,, and an article appearing in the Boston Globe. Regardless, CNN's "best political team on television" has never challenged Vanden Heuvel on the point.

In addition, the fact that the senator is known to have watered down legislation requiring nuclear giant Exelon to disclose its radiation leaks to the public doesn't seem to trouble his left-wing backers in the least. Exelon employees were among Obama's major contributors in 2006, while oil company executives and employees continue to send donations each month. (See the New York Times article for more on the leaks controversy.) Obama also chairs a senate subcommittee on Europe that has yet to hold a single hearing on NATO's failure to deploy troops to Darfur or address the resurgence of the Taliban in Afghanistan.

(Regarding Obama's time in the U.S. Senate, the New York Times published a background piece on March 9th. An article probing his Chicago years was published May 11th. The Tribune has also published an in-depth report about his time in the Illinois legislature, while Newsweek offers a comparison of the voting records of Obama and Clinton.)

Undeterred, liberal mouthpiece Adrianna Huffington (a former Republican) lauded the Illinois senator as practically the Second Coming in a blog posted on her website the morning after the Iowa Caucus. Like others of her stripe, Huffington didn't offer any specifics, and instead spent the bulk of her remarks castigating Bill Clinton, who she said had conducted himself in an interview as "arrogant and entitled, dismissive and fear-mongering."

Huffington, it seems, was one of several politicos swindled by the California recall referendum in 2002 that removed a Democratic governor from office. In his place, Enron's Ken Lay successfully installed Hollywood action hero Arnold Schwarzenegger, a coup which catapulted the state's old guard of Reaganites back to power in this predominantly progressive state. Candidate Huffington dropped out of the race a few days before the election, conceding the entire affair had been a set-up to divide the vote.

That she would knowingly allow herself to be bamboozled a second time is astonishing. With a few clicks of a mouse, she might have learned that former Speaker Dennis Hastert and the Illinois G.O.P. fielded an ill-qualified, non-state resident named Alan Keyes to run against Obama for the U.S. senate in 2004. Keyes replaced Jack Ryan, the candidate who officially won the G.O.P. primary, after Ryan was embarrassed in an alleged sex scandal involving his ex-wife, actress Jeri Ryan. (Jeri played "Seven of Nine" in the television series Star Trek Voyager.) Not surprisingly, the charge against Ryan was never corroborated, and Keyes, a bible-thumping small-time politician from Maryland, went on to pick up a staggering 27 percent of the vote. In effect, the Republicans handed Obama his senate seat on a silver platter.

Tony Rezko, the Iraq War, and other "Foreign" Affairs

Here's a little more history you won't find at HuffPost or The Nation: At the time of his U.S. senate run, Obama was a relatively minor player who had lost a congressional race against African American incumbent Bobbie Rush in 2000. Obama's first significant campaign donor in the 1990's was the Chicago power broker and developer Tony Rezko, whom he met while still in law school. On graduating from Harvard, Obama hired on with a community nonprofit agency called Project VOTE, where he organized voter registration drives. He later joined the law firm Miner Barnhill & Galland, whose clients included Rezko, and taught constitutional law part-time at the University of Chicago.

As an attorney, Obama represented a low-income senior housing project that Rezko managed with a partner company owned by Allison Davis, Obama's boss. According to the Chicago Sun-Times, "In addition to the development fees, a separate Davis-owned company stood to make another $900,000 through federal tax credits." The article described slumlike conditions in the apartments that included no heat, leading the City of Chicago to sue the partnership in 1994 for contract violations. Obama defended the landlord in court.

Later, as a state senator, he wrote endorsement letters on behalf of Rezko to government agencies allocating funds to build other housing projects. (Years later, the fact that sued slumlords were still receiving taxpayer funds would raise eyebrows in Chicago, but apparently no one lodged any serious objections at the time.) In fact, a 2007 Chicago Tribune article reported that Rezko's firm got contracts to rehab 30 buildings, including 11 in Obama's state legislative district on the South Side. Edward McClelland, writing for, noted that "Rezko, after all, built part of his fortune by exploiting the black community that Obama had served in the state senate, and by milking government programs meant to benefit black-owned businesses."

While it may be unclear why Obama would continue his relationship with Rezko after this point, it's indisputable that he did. In 2005, while Rezko was under investigation by federal authorities for fraud, Obama approached him for help in purchasing a $2 million Georgian-revival home in the historic Kenwood neighborhood of Chicago. The property deal involved splitting the land into two lots, with Rezko buying the large side yard for $625,000. Obama and his wife Michelle then acquired the parcel that included the mansion, paying $300,000 less than the asking price. The Chicago Tribune reported the details of this unusual arrangement in November 2006.

Although no laws were broken in the transaction, the New York Times reported that the Obama property deal may have been an attempt by the developer to shield assets from creditors in several individual lawsuits pending at the time. Even more hair-raising, Rezko - who was in bankruptcy proceedings at the time - received a $3.5 million loan in April, 2005 from a longtime business associate, Nadhmi Auchi. Auchi is a London-based Iraqi exile and one of the world's richest men, according to Forbes. He's also the former moneyman for Saddam Hussein, the Sun-Times reports.

According to The Times of London, "Mr. Auchi was convicted of corruption, given a suspended sentence and fined £1.4 million in France in 2003 for his part in the Elf affair, described as the biggest political and corporate scandal in post-war Europe." Rezko and Auchi are current partners in a major 62-acre land development in Riverside Park in Chicago. The Times also reported on February 26th that Auchi lent Rezko additional funds shortly before the purchase of the Obama property. "Under a Loan Forgiveness Agreement described in court, Mr. Auchi lent Mr. Rezko $3.5 million in April 2005 and $11 million in September 2005, as well as the $3.5 million transferred in April 2007."

Interestingly, Obama's unusual mortgage lender visited Chicago in 2004. While the State Department has never explained how he got a visa, a reception was held in his honor and attended by both Rezko and Emil Jones, president of the Illinois state senate. Jones was a pivotal player in Obama's 2004 U.S. senate bid, according to a CNN report. Obama himself attended the Auchi gathering, held at the posh Four Seasons, but says he doesn't recall meeting the man and was at the hotel on other business. A prosecution witness at the Rezko trial in Chicago testified on April 14th that Obama met Auchi during a party at Rezko's home April 3, 2004.

At first describing his relationship with Rezko as amounting to no more that "five billable hours" of law work at his firm, Obama later admitted the collaboration on his home purchase was a "boneheaded" mistake. He insists, however, that he's never done any favors for Rezko, and explained at a March 14th meeting with reporters from both Chicago daily newspapers, "This is an area where I can see sort of a lapse in judgment, where I could have said 'No, I'm not sure that's a good idea.'" Past contributions from Rezko and his circle has lead Obama to donate some of the money from his presidential campaign to charity.

Even here, the senator's story continues to change. Initially, the Sun-Times put the figure of tainted cash at $168,000. In February, the Obama campaign agreed to surrender about half that amount, but only as an "abundance of caution", a senior staffer said. However, after NBC Nightly News broadcast a story about the finances, the entire sum was donated. On March 14th, the campaign announced it would surrender another $100,000 when ABC News that uncovered more contributions linked to Rezko associates. According to the Los Angeles Times, Obama's various campaigns over the years have been financed in part using "straw donors", individuals who take money from other sources and contribute it to the candidate under their own names.

And the skeletons continue to pile up in the closet. Another Iraqi ex-patriot connected to Obama, Aiham Alsammarae, posted more than $2.7 million in property as collateral to help spring Tony Rezko from jail in April, according to a story in the Sun-Times. This was an odd development, since Alsammarae is (or was) wanted by Interpol for the theft of $650 million in Iraqi reconstruction funds. Newsweek reported on March 17, 2008 that Alsammarae'a son sent several faxes to Obama's office in Washington in 2006, complaining that his father was being unjustly held in a Baghdad jail in 2006.

In December of that year, Alsammarae escaped. Regarding this incident, the New York Times reported that "Iraqi officials initially blamed the Americans and later claimed that a private security detail used by Mr. Alsammarae when he was a minister was responsible, saying that a fleet of S.U.V.’s filled with “Westerners” pulled up to the jail and spirited him away, perhaps with the complicity of some of his jailers." (The security firm Blackwater guarded Alsammarae during his time in government.)

The Sun-Times has quoted an Obama spokesperson as characterizing the faxes sent to the senator's office as "a routine request from a constituent." Iraq's former minister of electricity, however, boasted that he escaped 'the Chicago way'", according to the New York Times. From the luxury of his compound in Illinois, Alsammarae donated online to the candidate in January, February and March of this year. The Sun-Tmes recently verified that a warrant for the fugitive's arrest remains active, but U.S. officials would not disclose what the warrant is for.

A man of multiple talents, Alsammarae also claims to have brokered a peace dialog with two Sunni militant groups in Iraq in 2005. According to the Washington Post, he "said the groups, which he identified as the Islamic Army in Iraq and the Mujaheddin Army, were willing to enter negotiations with U.S. and Iraqi officials." Alsammarae also told the Post that he lead his ownpredominantly Sunni political group called the Iraqi National Council Front. He also claims that his conviction for corruption has been vacated. (CNN interviewed Alsammarae in January 2006. Scroll halfway down the page to read the transcript.)

Not to be left out of the party, Rezko contracted in 2005 to build a power plant in Iraq with his friend's help, but the project was later given to another firm due to an apparent kickback scheme uncovered by U.S. authorities. A private blog called RezkoWatch has also reported that Rezko submitted a second proposal to build a training facility for Iraqi power plant security guards in Illinois. How such business dealings might impact Obama's position on American troops stationed in Iraq, if he's elected president, has not been discussed openly in the press or Democratic Party circles, to say nothing of the coalition.

But here's the strangest twist of all in the Rezko affair (so far): the federal prosecutor in the Chicago trial is Patrick Fitzgerald, the former special counsel in the Valerie Plame C.I.A. leak case. If you remember, a much anticipated indictment against Karl Rove never materialized in that earlier episode. Instead, Vice President Dick Cheney's chief of staff Scooter Libby was tried and convicted on four counts of lying under oath. (His sentence was later commuted by President Bush.) Whether Fitzgerald is delaying indictments of Chicago Gov. Blagojevich and Sen. Obama on orders from the Bush Administration is a matter of speculation. Curiously, on April 23rd, Rove's name came up when a witness testified that in 2004, G.O.P. heavyweight Robert Kjellander lobbied Rove to replace Fitzgerald in the case because a vigorous prosecution might hurt Republicans, according to a report ABC News posted on its website. The allegation defies logic, however, since Fitzgerald had specifically been tapped by the President to handle the Plame incident.

(More on the Bush/Rezko connection: Trial records have turned up a a little-known scheme in which Robert Kjellander was allegedly paid $3.1 million for consulting services by the Carlyle Group in connection with the Illinois Teachers Retirement System pension fund. If the name sounds familiar, that's because the Carlyle Group is identified in Michael Moore's film Fahrenheit 911 as the high-finance firm whose investors included both the Bush and Bin Laden families at the time of the Sept. 11th tragedy. Due to the spike in Defense-related expenditures that followed the terrorist attacks, Carlyle investors made a financial killing of their own when the company went public in 2002.)

In other Rezko trial developments, on March 10th, Obama was identified as a participant in crafting legislation to reduce the number of members on the Illinois Health Facilities Planning Board from 15 to 9, according to the Sun-Times' Rezko Blog. The prosecution alleges that in 2003, the Planning Board was stacked by Rezko in order to steer contracts his way. In another development reported on the CBS News website, the government's principle witness, Stuart Levine, acknowledged in sworn testimony that Allison Davis (Obama's former boss) acted as go-between in the shakedown of a Hollywood financier working with a state pension fund. On June 4th, Rezko was convicted on 16 of 24 counts of influence peddling and bribery. He says he will appeal the decision.

For more background on the Rezko/Obama relationship, read the March 2nd article in the New York Times and the investigative series in the Sun-Times. For a deeper probe into Rezko's various corporate and political connections, check out independent journalist Evelyn Pringle's three-part series.

(Other scandal allegations: According to a Chicago Tribune story appearing in June 2007, Obama endorsed and appeared in campaign commercials for Alex Giannoulias, a banker who ran for Illinois state treasurer in 2006. Obama backed Giannoulias despite reports that his family-owned Broadway Bank made loans to bookmakers, prostitution rings and to other crime figures. "Records show Giannoulias and his family had given more than $10,000 to Obama's campaign, which banked at Broadway," the article stated [emphasis added]. The presidential candidate also backed another controversial figure, Dorothy Tillman, in her bid for a local alderman seat. "Tillman was then under fire for her stewardship of the scandal-plagued Harold Washington Cultural Center, where contracts benefited members of her family," the Tribune reported.)

Such associations and actions clearly contradict Obama's stated platform of clean politics. At the same time, they haven't prevented him from calling on Senator Clinton and her husband to release tax returns for the last several years, along with records pertaining to the former First Lady's eight-year stint in the White House. On March 19th, the National Archives published Clinton's appointment calendar. The tax returns were made public two weeks later. By contrast, CBS News reported that Obama himself had produced no documents regarding his own two terms in the state senate. "Obama's statement that he has no papers from his time in the Illinois statehouse — he left in 2004 — stands in stark contrast to the massive Clinton file stored at the National Archives: an estimated 78 million pages of documents, plus 20 million e-mail messages, packed into 36,000 boxes," according to the article.

Racism, Sexism and OutFoxing Fox News

At the same time that they've underreported his numerous links to crime figures, all the major national broadcast networks have actively promoted the Obama candidacy. It was Clinton herelf , and not the American press corps, who first brought up the name of Tony Rezko during the South Carolina debate in January. It prompted a few reports on the evening news. However, two days later, the Today show's Matt Lauer confronted her with a photo taken in the1990s that showed the senator and President Clinton posing with Rezko at a White House social event.

Lauer offered no evidence that either husband or wife had any history with the indicted developer. And although Clinton explained that she's appeared in thousands of courtesy photos during her two decades of public life, Lauer's terse questioning and skeptical demeanor suggested a more sinister intent. This tendency to transfer onto Clinton the shortcomings of her opponent has been a pattern throughout the primary season. In February, after reporting on Obama's apparent plagiarism during a speech he gave in Wisconsin, Nightly News dug up separate video clips showing Clinton and her husband both reciting the same two-line passage from the bible. This was offered as evidence to show that Obama's uncredited use of his friend's "Just Words" speech from 2006 reflected a standard practice among politicians.

A few other examples of media bias are worth noting. On the night before the New Hampshire primary, anchor Brian Williams accompanied Obama on the campaign trail, flashing a Newsweek cover of the senator and uttering superlatives about his meteoric rise to political stardom. In fact, Williams acted like someone undergoing a spiritual epiphany. During the same broadcast, Andrea Mitchell derided the Clinton campaign as broke, desperate, and ablaze with in-fighting. She continued along these lines the following night, assuring viewers that the senator's initial three-point lead in the vote tally would eventually evaporate. It didn't.

The attempts to cast doubt on one candidate's viability while creating a bandwagon effect for another continues to be standard fare in the 2008 election coverage. Shortly before Super Tuesday, both Mitchell and Meet the Press host Tim Russert claimed that the leadership of the Democratic Party was "mad as hell" at Bill Clinton and lining up to back the Illinois senator. No sources were named to corroborate this bombshell allegation. Russert went on to explain that Ted and Caroline Kennedy's recent endorsement of Obama represented a sea change in the election, adding that because Ted's brother Bobby Kennedy had been friends with Cesar Chavez, founder of the United Farmworkers, the endorsement should pave the way for Obama capturing the Latino vote.

What NBC's crack team of reporters failed to mention was that three of Bobby Kennedy's own children, as well as the son of Cesar Chavez and the United Farmworkers union itself had already endorsed Clinton. In Nevada, Latinos in the 60,000-strong Culinary Workers Union defied their white male leadership's endorsement of Obama and helped Clinton win the caucus there. And while the Florida primary was showing Clinton with a 15 point lead in the polls, over at CNN, fill-in anchor Jim Acosta was declaring the Obama campaign a "runaway train" after its big South Carolina victory.

Much of the national media (including internet news services) blacked out the results of Florida's January 29th Democratic primary. On February 10th, two days before the Maryland-Virginia-D.C. primaries, CBS anchor Katy Couric joined the Clinton-bashing with a 60 Minutes interview of the candidate spiced with multiple questions about how the candidate would deal with losing the election. She also asked the candidate why she was given the nickname "Miss Frigidaire" in high school. The exchange followed a much more upbeat piece on Obama that virtually repeated the Brian Williams New Hampshire epiphany. At the time, Obama was still trailing Clinton in delegates.

To wit, if there's a runaway train in this race, it isn't either of the candidates. For the past 20 years, media outlets have become increasingly consolidated into chains owned by multinational corporations. As part of this merging of advertisers with their mediums, the news, entertainment and advertising divisions of major networks have become increasingly indistinguishable. The NBC/MSNBC network, which has come under fire for the misogynist undertones of some of its cable newscasters, is owned by the energy company and defense contractor General Electric. (It seems Tony Rezko obtained a $10 million loan a few years ago from General Electric Capital Corp. for a chain of pizza restaurants, according to a recent Sun-Times story.) For her part, correspondent Andrea Mitchell is married to former Federal Reserve chief Alan Greenspan, the man many economists blame for the current meltdown on Wall Street.

Fortunately, a few journalists have admitted off-camera that Clinton has not been treated fairly in the course of the campaign. In December, Howard Kurtz published an article in the Washington Post that exposed the widespread media bias favoring Obama. "The Illinois senator's fundraising receives far less press attention than Clinton's," Kurtz offered as an example of the phenomenon. "When the Washington Post reported last month that Obama used a political action committee to hand more than $180,000 to Democratic groups and candidates in the early-voting states of Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina, the suggestion that he might be buying support received no attention on the network newscasts." Fear of Flying novelist Erica Jong offers her take on the situation in Hillary vs. the Patriarchy, published in early February, also in the Washington Post. And Post writer Marie Cocco first reported on a related topic, the mysoginist vitriol directed at Clinton from the media, in October. She highlights some of the more memorable attacks in her widely reprinted column of May 15th.

In contrast to the scant attention paid to sexism, the race card has proven to be another matter entirely in the eyes of the American press corps. After Clinton's big New Hampshire win, for instance, Obama surrogates flooded the airwaves arguing that the state's predominantly white voters had betrayed the black candidate in the secrecy of the ballot booth; hence the discrepancy between the widely disparate pre-election polls and the actual tally. Later, when Senator Clinton made a speech tying Martin Luther King's efforts to President Johnson's signing of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, highlighting the role of Johnson, the Obama camp pounced. A South Carolina staff person sent out a four-page memorandum urging spokespeople to slam Clinton for disrespecting Dr. King.

If you tracked the coverage of the ensuing controversy, you would never know that it was this document that sparked the racebaiting episode. Before the memo surfaced on the internet, Obama insisted to reporters that neither he nor anyone on his staff had accused Clinton of any impropriety in her speech about Johnson. He said he was "baffled" by her suggestion that they were somehow involved. Democratic strategist Donna Brazile later came to his defense, deriding what she termed inexcusable slurs by former President Clinton. In a speech, Clinton had characterize Obama as a "kid", Brazille bristled, one whose presidential bid amounted to a "fairy tale". (To be sure, Clinton stated that Obama's position on the Iraq War was a fairy tale, not his candidacy.)

On the heels of the Brazile salvo, South Carolina Congressman Jim Clyburn claimed Bill Clintons' remarks had compelled him to renege on an earlier promise to the Democratic National committee not to endorse a candidate before his state's primary. Responding to the call to arms, Black voters converged on election day to back the senator from Illinois in massive numbers. Now that the Clintons had been condemned in the national press for "playing the race card", Obama would no longer have to worry about the African American vote. (Princeton Professor Sean Wilentz wrote a long piece analyzing this subject in The New Republic last Februrary.)

Clinton herself told the Washington Post on May 19th that she believes the hatemongering toward her has posed a far greater problem than any alleged racism exhibited towards her opponent. "The manifestation of some of the sexism that has gone on in this campaign is somehow more respectable, or at least more accepted, and . . . there should be equal rejection of the sexism and the racism when it raises its ugly head," she said. "It does seem as though the press at least is not as bothered by the incredible vitriol that has been engendered by the comments by people who are nothing but misogynists."

Before the presidential primaries, Clinton had historically shied away from responding to personal attacks, whether it came from sexist Manhattan firefighters or Chris Matthews' daily disparagement of her on MSNBC's Hardball. Her campaign briefly cut off relations with NBC when another MSNBC reporter, David Schuster, said the Clintons had "pimped-out" daughter Chelsea as part of their election strategy. Over the course of several debates, however, her political reflexes sharpened to the point where no personal attack has gone unpunished. (Accusations involving race baiting seem to be an exception.) During a contentious April 8th radio interview, Clinton took NPR reporter Michele Norris to task with particular relish when the reported accused her of trying to "win ugly".

Martial Law?

Clinton has demurred so far in implicating Karl Rove and the G.O.P. in the covert operation to help Obama defeat her. After being targeted with offensive direct mailers in Ohio, she accused her rival of tactics "straight out of the Rove playbook", but has never mentioned the impact of the crossover voting scheme in the red states. As for the rest of the Bush Administration, all Clinton has mustered to date on the subject is her oft-repeated statement, “They’re not going to surrender the White House voluntarily." Last spring, she suggested that another terrorist attack against the United States would inevitably play into the hands of the G.O.P. During a stump speech in May, she warned voters that "this election will have lasting consequences", but didn't spell out what she meant.

Such remarks may prove prophetic in the event the Obama strategy fails and she goes on to either win the Democratic nomination or launches a what could be a successful bid as an Independent. The implications of a female president for American foreign and domestic policy are profound, especially when the candidate has promised greater oversight of corporations, federally sponsored job programs and improving women's human rights around the world. Such initiatives create jitters not only for Wall Street but for the Pentagon, the CIA and the State Department. Officials accused of breaking U.S. laws or violating the Geneva Conventions could ostensibly be arrested and prosecuted by a Clinton-run Justice Department.

And if that's not enough to keep Bush appointees lying awake deep into the night, their long-running wink-wink with the ayatollahs in Iran, the Pakistani Inter-Services Intelligence and the Saudi royal family would likely be curtailed if a woman were to take over in the West Wing. The Saudis especially have reason to fret now that they and their counterparts in Kuwait and the U.A.E. have started buying up huge stakes in U.S. banks. In the eyes of the oil producing countries, Condolleeza Rice and Nancy Pelosi are one thing, a Clinton White House quite another.

Last year, President Bush may have implemented a back-up plan to the prospect of a second Clinton Administration when he signed National Security Presidential Directive/NSPD 51. This executive order allows him to suspend the constitution without prior congressional approval if he declares a state of emergency (i.e. martial law) in the event of a major terrorist attack or other “decapitating” incident against the United States. According to the language in the directive, the attack need not even take place inside the country.

Under NSPD 51, the President can cancel elections, padlock the Capitol dome and send the Supreme Court justices home. The directive also assigns his homeland security assistant - a low-level position exempt from senate confirmation - to administer what has been dubbed the Enduring Constitutional Government. (Here’s the text of the directive.)

Even if Clinton fades from the picture and an Obama/McCain matchup looms in November, the martial law scenario could still unfold. Were the majority of Americans to become disenchanted with or remain uninspired by either candidate option, President Bush could potentially pull off a coup de tat without starting a civil war. After all, the Democrats managed to do it in June with relatively little pushback from the electorate.

Delegates and the Democratic National Convention

Assuming we're still living in a free country next August, the Democratic Party's 796 superdelegates and over 3,000 pledged delegates may get to decide the nomination. The specter of superdelegates determining the ticket in November at first set Obama surrogates and pundits on their haunches, many arguing that a "brokered convention" decided in "smoky back rooms" would destroy the party. That's because it was inititally thought that two-thirds of the superdelegates were pledged for Clinton. The situation turned out to be more fluid, helped along by apparent offers of re-election financing from the Bank of Obama, as some observers were calling it, so that by June 3rd, the DNC succeeded in amassing enough delegates to claim a lock on the nomination. In Orwellian style, the narrative playing in the press dutifully transitioned from the idea of superdelegates destroying the party to now "uniting" the party with the early nominee determination.

It's not like no one knew this was coming. In March, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid had warned that "things will be done" to make sure a nominee was named before the convention. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi suggested in March that "the will of the people" should determine the nominee, but later backed way from that sentiment as Clinton surged in the popular vote, eventually beating Obama by nearly 300,000 votes, according to an ABC News tally. In late May, Pelosi announced she would intervene in the nomination battle if no clear winner had emerged after the last primaries on June 3rd. (See their various statements.) After winning South Dakota that night by 12 points, Clinton said in her victory speech and subsequent interviews that she intended to fight on to win the hearts and minds of delegates. Her campaign had earlier indicated that it would challenge a decision by the DNC Rules and Bylaws Committee to award Obama delegates from Michigan which he had not earned.

Less than 24 hours later, Clinton reversed herself. Under pressure from Obama supporters to quit the race since March, she finally relented when party leaders put the screws to her at her home in Washington D.C. on June 4th. (It was the 40th anniversary of the assassination of Robert F. Kennedy.) Within the news media, the ongoing smear campaign against her had by now revved into overdrive, with pundits accusing her of not being "gracious" in defeat. CNN legal expert Jeffrey Toobin accused her of a "deranged narcissism" in clinging to her presidential hopes. One of her own supporters, New York Rep. Charles Rangel, was later credited with browbeating her into submission. After sending out an email to millions of donors, she formally suspended her campaign and endorsed Obama a few days later.

Many pundits and journalists had previously raised the prospect of violence at the Denver gathering should the nomination not be decided beforehand. Both CNN and Fox were already using this "there will be blood" scenario in their election-reporting title graphics on the night of the Texas/Ohio primaries. On May 23rd, former sixties radical and California state assemblyman Tom Hayden warned on NPR's All things Considered, “If there were the theft of a nomination, if that was the perception of the Obama supporters, then probably there would be a ‘68 scenario.” Hayden himself first achieved national prominence as an instigator of the Chicago convention riot in 1968.

Not everyone in the media shares the view that Clinton was somehow trying to "steal" Obama's nomination or fracture the Democratic Party. Sarah Churchwell of the Independent (U.K.) wrote on May 8th,"A similar argument was advanced in 2000, pressuring Gore to concede the presidency to Bush, or risk a 'constitutional crisis' – American code for 'rip the country apart'. He was told he couldn't win, that the people had spoken, that he should concede graciously and let the system work – the one the Republicans were busy rigging. So he conceded." Churchwell adds, "That turned out well, didn't it?"

Eric Boehlert of Media Matters posted a commentary examining close primary contests in years past and found that the calls for Clinton to withdraw are unprecedented in U.S. history. Both Senator Edward Kennedy and Rev. Jesse Jackson were allowed to make their case to delegates at the convention without incident. (In 1984, the first year superdelegates got to vote, Jackson received thunderous acclimation at the San Francisco gathering whenever he uttered his slogan, "This is a convention, not a coronation.") The disparity in treatment for a woman candidate in 2008 has spurred the formation of several pro-Clinton advocacy groups, listed at a new website called . Among the new entinties are Operation Turndown, Clinton Supporters Count, Too, PUMA PAC (Party Unity My Ass!) and WomenCount PAC, which recently ran $250,000 worth of ads on her behalf. According to Scranton, Pennsylvania talk show host Steve Corbett, " 'Operation Turndown' lives in the heart of anyone who sees this elegant political hustle for what it is – a dangerous maneuver orchestrated by the party elite to take care of themselves at everybody else’s expense."

In one of the more explosive events of the campaign season, on May 31st, the disputed January primary elections in Florida and Michigan were resolved by the Democratic National Committee, which cut their delegations in half. Both states' pledged and superdelegates were originally stripped entirely by the DNC for holding primaries before February 5th. (Iowa and New Hampshire also violated the rules but were not penalized.) Clinton won 50 percent of Florida's popular vote, Obama 33 percent, and John Edwards 16 percent. Obama's name didn't appear on the ballot in Michigan, as he and three other candidates volunteerily withdrew from ballot, but the Rules and Bylaws Committee decided to give him nearly half the pledged delegates anyway. The Alice in Wonderland reasoning employed by the majority of committee members eventually paved the wave for the Obama as Nominee declaration the following week.

Many Floridians were outraged by the decision. (Some have formed their own dissident groups to battle the Democratic Party on the unfair treatment.) Back in August 2007, state party officials had explained to the rules committee that Florida's Republican-controlled legislature had moved up the primary date over their objections, but to no avail. A December 17th article in The Nation explored the controversy, while investigative journalist Wayne Barrett published a detailed analysis of the behind-the-scenes maneuvering in the two state legislatures. By many accounts, Clinton was expected in advance to win both states, leading to speculation that the entire fiasco had been manufactured to cripple her momentum going into the Feb 5th Super Tuesday contests.

Since withdrawing from the race, Clinton herself has kept a relatively low profile. After participating in a conference with hunddreds of delegates the week after her concession, the New York Senator was accused by media sources of having officially "released" all her delegates to the convention. If true, it would effectively cancel out out 16 months of 24/7 campaigning around the country and 18 million votes, more than any other primary candidate in U.S. history. Some of those participating in the conference call said Clinton didn't release any delegates and that the press had simply disseminated the latest hardball talking points of the Obama campaign.

It's not an academic point. As more information about Obama's Iraqi and Rezko connections comes to light, it's conceivable that delegates could defect by the time the August meeting rolls around, effectively handing the nomination to Clinton. However, given the extent to which the DNC and party leadership have rigged the nominating process against her, even if Obama were disqualified it's likely Pelosi, Reid, Dean, et. al. would maneuver to get a draft candidate like John Edwards or Al Gore nominated rather than Clinton. As a result, a growing number of Clinton supporters have urged her to run as an Independent in November. In her concession speech, she seemed to be responding to that suggestion when she said that those people thinking about "what if" should follow the following advice: "Don't go there."

Karl Rove must surely be pleased with how the 2008 campaign season is going so far. And anyone interested in an even longer opus on the subject of political chicanery than the one you've just read might want to check it Henrik Ibsen's classic play Enemy of the People.

- Rosemary Regello

Note: Activated links for articles cited in this story are available only from website. (Thanks to everyone who has sent in links to additional story sources, identified errors, posted this article on blogs or emailed it to friends.)

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